Editorial: Will legislators cut 2 perks?Published 10:38am Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Recognizing it’s the Legislature, which has never met a deadline it was afraid to ignore, Friday marks an important point in the 2012 session. It’s the first deadline for committees to act favorably on bills in their house of origin.
That means by Saturday you will have a good idea as to what new legislation has a chance of passing this session — barring, of course, legislators ignoring their own deadlines.
Friday’s deadline will be particularly telling of legislators’ views on their own compensation — specifically, whether they should continue to be eligible for two perks unheard of in any other workplace.
One allows legislators, once out of office, to go on and off state health coverage as they choose, as many times as they desire. The other pads their retirement benefits by allowing them to count per diem reimbursements as earned income.
Per diems are supposed to reimburse daily expenses incurred. But legislators also can use them to jack up their annual wage by $12,000 in determining pension packages. That’s like a private employer counting mileage reimbursement as a basis for a pension — if pensions are even an option nowadays.
As for jumping in and out of health plans after legislators leave office, it’s unfathomable.
Most private-sector packages never extend beyond your departure, much less allow you to jump in or out of coverage. In fact, many private-sector employees probably are laughing out loud at this option. After all, it’s common today to require workers to provide insurers with birth certificates of family members they want to cover while they are at the job. (Not to mention extra fees charged if a relative has access to other insurance but wants coverage through their plan.)
Both these perks are astounding examples of personal gain at public expense. Both reflect absurd double standards. And both should be easily — and unanimously — dropped.
Sadly, it’s a good bet that won’t happen Friday, if ever. Why?
The list of dead-on-arrival “good governance” proposals that specifically target legislators’ power and pocketbooks is long and distinguished. See also: creating a unicameral Legislature … invoking legislative term limits … allowing initiative and referendum … etc.
Heck, even when legislators “freeze” their own pay they find ways to pad their pockets. Remember back in 2008? Legislators didn’t raise their wages but they did increase per diems to $77 per day for representatives and $86 per day for senators. To say nothing of housing allowances, mileage, free Capitol parking, etc.
So as much as these latest proposals make sense — fiscally and beyond — don’t expect them to get very far by Friday. If ever.
— St. Cloud Times, March 12