Monday, February 13, 2006

Star To Garton: Kill This Perk!

An editorial in today's Star tells Sen. President Bob Garton to do what we've been suggesting for several weeks now: kill the health care for life legislative perk. The editorial explains how former Sen. Larry Borst (R-Indianapolis) and Rep. John Frenz (D-Vincennes) both lost their re-elections when their opponents made an issue of their support of the legislative perk. It poses several good questions about the plan with very pointed answers.

Here's the full text of the editorial.

Our position: Senate president pro tempore should end perk that gives legislators and their families subsidized health care for life.

You're probably asking yourself, Sen. Garton, why you should take away from your fellow senators a generous benefit that provides heavily subsidized health, dental and vision care for retired lawmakers and their families for life. The Star Editorial Board offers some answers:

Could part-time workers in any other field get as generous a health plan? Most part-time employees don't even get health insurance, much less a plan this heavily subsidized.

Do other state employees get such a sweet deal? Not at all. State employees paid as much as $13,000 more last year than your fellow legislators for health insurance. In 2005, taxpayers spent $250,000 to subsidize the legislature's health care costs.

What's wrong with spending $250,000 of taxpayers' money for our well-being? Public service, as you know senator, means being a good steward of taxpayers' money. Giving yourselves such an extravagant perk violates that principle.

But my fellow legislators make only $11,000 a year. Yes, but lawmakers also
receive $128-a-day in expense money while in session, another $51 daily for out-of-session expenses, and a retirement plan under which taxpayers match $4 for every dollar vested.

Will primary opponent Greg Walker and Democratic challenger Terry Corriden use this issue against me this year? Ask former colleague Lawrence Borst, whose defeat at the hands of now-Sen. Brent Waltz was as much due to outrage about the perk as it was about Borst's opposition to gaming expansion. Or talk to state Rep. Troy Woodruff, who credits voter outrage over the perk with his victory over incumbent John Frenz two years ago.
The answer, senator, is yes. And deservedly so.

So how can I save my job and best serve the voters? Even though Rep. Woodruff's plan to kill the perk, in the form of HB 1309, died in the House, you can simply end the benefit with the stroke of a pen. Speaker Brian Bosma did exactly that last month. Then, in next year's session, you could support a new version of the bill to end the subsidy permanently.
Do the right thing, senator. Kill this perk.

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