Miami-Dade County commissioners eliminated an unpopular employee healthcare concession on Thursday, restoring public workers’ pay in defiance of Mayor Carlos Gimenez after hours of harrowing testimony from labor unions.
As of Jan. 1, most of the county’s nearly 26,000 employees will stop contributing 5 percent of their base pay toward group healthcare costs, for the first time in more than three years.
To make up for the contribution, Gimenez’s administration will be forced to cut $56 million from the county’s current $4.4 billion operating budget. About $27 million of that will come from the general fund. The Jackson Health System will also have to adjust its budget.
Layoffs, the mayor said, are probable. Fee hikes, he added, are also possible.
“Are we still in a very tough situation? Yes, we are,” said Commissioner Jean Monestime, who voted to eliminate the concession. “But when these employees gave back to the county, they were in a very difficult situation as well.”
Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and Commissioners Monestime, Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss, Javier Souto and Xavier Suarez voted in favor. Vice-Chairwoman Lynda Bell and Commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Sally Heyman voted against.
Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who was hospitalized, and Juan C. Zapata were absent.
The decisive 8-3 vote, taken after a 12-hour special meeting, does not provide the commission with a nine-vote, veto-proof super-majority against Gimenez, who had asked to keep the concession in place. Gimenez is likely to wield his veto pen.
“What they did today was completely irresponsible,” an angry Gimenez said after the vote. “They squarely were on the side of the employees instead of the people of Miami-Dade County. I think we need to do another round.”