Editorial: Oakland County should say 'no' to freebies

The Detroit News

Who doesn’t love a day off? Most of us welcome some time away from the grind. But when the government gets extra generous with its employees, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for benefits most of them don’t get themselves. 

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners extended a new benefit to roughly 5,000 county employees last week by adding a holiday for workers: Election Day.

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners extended a new benefit to roughly 5,000 county employees last week, by adding a holiday for workers: Election Day.

Democrats, who are now the majority on the board, are flexing their liberal muscles. In addition to the extra time off, commissioners also approved a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender expression, which will apply to all county employees and any entity that contracts with the county. 

The board approved the new day off in a 11-7 vote, along party lines. Three Republicans weren’t at the meeting. 

Government employees outpace private workers when it comes to job perks, from health care to retirement benefits. This also includes paid holidays. For example, federal data highlights that full-time state and local government employees get an average of 11 paid holidays a year while full-time workers in the private sector get eight.

Oakland County’s employees were already ahead of the national average. Workers receive 12 paid holidays, plus an additional “floating holiday” they can take whenever they want. With Election Day added in, employees will get a total of 14 holidays in election years. This doesn’t include paid vacation days. The county clerk and and other election officials required to work on Election Day will receive an additional floating holiday so they aren’t left out.

Not too shabby. 

The county’s workers will now join the United Auto Workers, whose members got the paid holiday back in 1999. State employees, as well as those in Wayne and Macomb counties, also get the day off. 

Oakland County commissioners who supported the measure claim they want their employees to fully enjoy their civic duty. And while it can be a challenge to stop by the polls to vote on the way to or from work, it’s certainly not impossible. It’s what most of us have to do.

Perhaps the board overlooked that last November voters approved no-reason absentee voting in Michigan. It’s very easy now to get an absentee ballot, taking away the stress of voting at a physical location on Election Day. 

So the Election Day holiday is an unnecessary freebie. 

The county estimates it will cost $304,000 every election cycle in holiday overtime expenses, but the actual cost is likely to be much higher, when considering lost county services on those days. 

With measures like this, Oakland County is signaling that it is no longer putting the priorities of the residents who pay the bills first.