Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Legislators still get full benefits

Legislator benefits are a drop in the bucket as far as spending goes, but when they are asking others to sacrifice, a symbolic gesture such as this would go a long way towards showing the public that lawmakers, too, are willing to share the burden. Will they do it this time around?

Republicans argued that retired school employees' health care benefits are out of whack with the private sector and out of whack with what taxpayers can afford.

But here's the thing.

Retired lawmakers have a much better deal.

"Apparently, it got lost in the shuffle," said Rep. Robert Dean, a Democrat from Grand Rapids who has sponsored legislation to eliminate health care retirement benefits for future lawmakers. "Leadership didn't push it to the top, and that was from both sides."

The House has passed a bill to reduce salaries 5% starting with the class of 2009 back in May.  Why wasn't this considered during budget negotiations, especially when the public was growing increasingly infuriated with all things Lansing? Sounds like the Republicans, who were so focused on breaking MESSA, didn't consider their own generous benefits to be an issue.

Dillon spokesman Greg Bird said Democrats attempted to include the measure in the reforms, as well as a resolution to reduce legislative salaries by 5 percent.

"That's something we tried to negotiate. Unfortunately, that was not something they (Republicans) wanted to negotiate at this time," Bird said.

Bishop couldn't be bothered to comment. Pretty telling right there.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, did not return calls.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, said he wasn't sure why the measure wasn't part of lawmakers' reform package but thought it may have "fallen through the cracks."

There are still $435 million in cuts to go. This will give us a place to start.