Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Shame, Sonny. Shame.

What the holy hell?

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has vetoed Senate bill 236 that would have extended health coverage to the survivors of any state employee killed in the line of duty. This was not a giveaway. It merely gave the survivors the right to continue the coverage by paying the same premium as an active state employee.

The bill passed the Senate 51-0. It passed the house 124-3.

Let's put aside the right or wrong for a second and just look at the politics. How does he do this in an election year? With a giant revenue surplus? How do you deny benefits to widows, widowers and children of someone who gave their life doing the state's work? This makes exactly zero sense.

Democrats, you have an issue that you can pound until the cows come home. Will you run with it?

Republicans, if you can explain the political sense of this action, please do?

As far as whether it is right or wrong, this just feels wrong. Some will argue that it's a matter of personal responsibility. Even Sonny indicated that the state shouldn't be liable for benefits while not receiving the "reciprocal benefit of the services of that employee".

Sorry, Sonny and all you personal responsibility ideologues. The state received the ultimate benefit of those employees. Their lives.

I am no fan of the state giving something for nothing, but I am also a human being. Unless the current administration has allowed the state benefit system to run into the ground, the yearly hit it would receive from the small number of employees suffering death in the line would be miniscule. If I am wrong about this then let's see the books. Then, let's have an accounting of how the benefit system could be in such dire straits.

How does anyone see that this is the right thing to do?

Shame on you, Sonny. If you don't provide some pretty solid justification on this issue, shame.


Anonymous said...

Because the state is required to pay AT LEAST 50% of the employees coverage, most governement plans pay more if not all of that, and any supplemental spousal/family amounts are paid by the employee either in full or at a discounted rate, the implications of this over a life time can be HUGE to the cost of the rest of the plan beneficiaries if the bill was written to give the surviving spouse the SAME discount as the spouse. Even once an employee retires, they are required to pay a larger portion now that they aren't employees. However, the fact they lost their life in duty should be worth SOMETHING.

I would submit that anyone who lost their spouse in the line of duty at a local or even state level, should be allowed to continue health coverage (beyond cobra) at the least level of 1. what the employee would have been entitled to pay should he have been retired with his years of service OR 2. The maximum amount of contribution allowed for early retirement within the retirement plan as of his date of death even if he didn't meet the years of service.

Meaning... the county's plan where I worked for several years changed from a Defined Benefit (Pension for life type plan) to a 401(k) type plan with retirement at any age... well, when I tried to invoke that "retirement at any age" plan, they came back and gave a vested level of health benefits they would cover STARTING at 10 years of service where the employee paid 100% of all health benefits, 15 years of service was 80% health cover, 20 years of service was 60% and 25+ years was either 40% or 50%.

So in the case I'm discussing, the spouse of the person killed in the line of duty would be allowed to continue health coverage at a minimum of when the retirment health plan would have kicked in REGARLESS of 6 months of service or 9.9 years of service (which would kick in at 10 years of service, you can retire and pay 100% of your health coverage for the rest of your life). If the employee had 20 years of service, then the spouse would immediately have health coverage at 60% of cost just like a retiree regardless of the age. Without a similar caveat, the cost of health premiums (which are already sky high) would skyrocket in a governement situation where it is likely people will lose their lives due to the profession of cops/firefighters/dectectives.

Just my 2 cents on how to make this work without breaking the government or the employees who contribute.

griftdrift said...

I think you have some fair points. When I read the bill, my first impression was that it was overly broad. Perhaps the legislature can revisit this next year and with a few tweaks it can get through.

From a political perspective I believe it has the potential to be a huge mistake. Sonny should have said more about this. Explained the fiscal reasons. Instead he had a single cold paragraphe that the dems can exploit for many, many news cycles.

But what I really want to say is...

anonymous people coming to defend local politicians on my little blog.


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