OPINION: Proposed state ban on domestic partner benefits is bad for business and should be vetoed
Editor's note: The percentage amount that the city of Kalamazoo and the University of Michigan spend out of their healthcare budgets for domestic partner benefits has been corrected.
This month, a number of CEOs from West Michigan had the chance to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder on the topic of developing, attracting, and retaining talent in our state. After being involved in such a positive meeting, I’m shocked that House Bills 4770 and 4771, negative measures that bar state employers from offering domestic partnership health benefits, have passed the Legislature and are waiting on the governor’s desk.
I won’t mince words. This legislation is bad for businesses, bad for education, bad for our state and deserves a veto from Governor Snyder. I recognize that this is NOT a battle that he was looking for, but I also know that he is the only one who can put an end to these legislative distractions that put ideological gamesmanship ahead of sound economic policies and the will of the people.
Governor Snyder’s “Reinvent Michigan” initiative is thoughtful and comprehensive. HB 4770 and 4771 are mean-spirited and harmful.
Governor Snyder’s “Reinvent Michigan” initiative is measured and utilizes proven economic strategies. HB 4770 and 4771 go against the spirit of growth and inclusion.
Governor Snyder’s “Reinvent Michigan” initiative is forward-thinking and attractive to young people, the creative class, investors and entrepreneurs. HB 4770 and 4771 discourage thoughts of expansion, and encourage young people to flee to less hostile territory.
Sponsors of the bill point to the “high cost” of domestic partner benefits as the motivating force behind these bills. Yet, we all know that’s not true. Money in this debate is just window-dressing for discriminatory policies that will surely set our state back. First of all, the anti-gay rhetoric coming from the sponsors and supporters of this bill is appalling. Second, they haven’t been able to back their claims of high costs with reliable numbers.
Recently, an analysis conducted by the Michigan Civil Service Commission found that only about 140 eligible employees opted in to its benefits program, proving the true cost of these domestic partner benefits was about $840,000 and not the $8 million figure propagated by supporters of the bills. That’s much less than 1 percent of the state’s healthcare budget. In addition, the City of Kalamazoo and the University of Michigan report spending 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent of their overall healthcare budgets respectively on their “designated other” programs.
Governor Snyder has been relentlessly focused on rebuilding and reinventing Michigan. Without a veto, Governor Snyder risks forever ceding focus to the same people who embarrassed Michigan on the comedy news shows with their attempt to protect bullying if it is motivated by sincere moral or religious convictions. A veto is the only option to protect Michigan and get us back on track.
Leaving employers free to do what they think is best for their employees is fair and logical. It should be part of our overall “Reinvent Michigan” strategy. A veto of HB 4770 and 4771 will not only help our state retain and recruit the brightest and best, it will put us back on the right side of history.
Jeff Padnos is proud to have been an early supporter of Rick Snyder. He is president of Padnos, a West Michigan based recycling company, which offers domestic partner benefits to its employees.