are warning state lawmakers that without dramatic changes to the way municipalities provide health care to their public workers, cities and towns will face dire fiscal straits for the foreseeable future
, threatening core local services from police to road repairs. The mayors issued their warning during a Statehouse hearing on a series of proposals on ways to overhaul insurance coverage for municipal employees.
Mayor Thomas Menino said the state's largest city is already grappling with the effects of skyrocketing health care costs. He said in the past decade those costs have soared by 142 percent
while all other spending grew by 27 percent. For every dollar the city spends on health insurance, Menino said, it spends just a nickel on snow removal and community centers. "The status quo is a stampede of increasing costs that will break cities and towns," he said. "If we do nothing ... Boston will continue to spend more on health care than on the entire police department."
Menino wasn't alone. New Bedford
Mayor Scott Lang said his city is also looking at ongoing cuts to services unless mayors and town administrators are given more control over health care plans for their workers.
Lang said a proposal unveiled on Monday by a coalition of unions representing public workers was a start, but didn't "scratch the surface"
of the kind of overhaul needed to get spending under control. Union officials said their plan would save an estimated $120 million in the first year, while preserving collective bargaining rights
. Lang, who supports a proposal by the Massachusetts Municipal Association that would strengthen the hands of city and town leaders
over health care plans for workers, said the goal should be to develop a way to provide quality health care plans that are also affordable. "Otherwise, in order to pay for the health care plans you are going to be laying off the very employees that the unions represent
," Lang said.