AUBURN | Cayuga County legislators are taking the next step in possibly eliminating their own health insurance benefit and potentially saving county taxpayer dollars.
Hans Pecher first proposed the idea at October's Government Operations Committee meeting and reintroduced a revamped proposal for a draft resolution on Nov. 6.
Under the suggestion of Legislator Mark Farrell, legislators on the committee agreed to support a draft resolution eliminating legislative health insurance effective Dec. 31, 2015. The future date allows legislators already getting health benefits to keep them and ensures that new legislators know what to expect in future years, Farrell said.
If approved the resolution would eliminate legislator health insurance compensation and increase base salaries by $2,400. Under the newly proposed provisions, legislators would earn a base salary of $12,500, Pecher said.
Legislators in Cayuga County now earn $10,100 annually. The chairman of the Legislature is the exception, earning $30,000 annually. Legislators who chair committees earn an extra $2,000, majority and minority leaders earn an extra $750, and the vice chair of the Legislature earns an extra $1,500 annually.
In his proposal, Pecher suggests cutting the $56,000 in annual health insurance costs down to nothing and increasing legislator pay by $33,600, dividing it among the legislators evenly. Doing so would result in savings of $17,214 for county taxpayers, he said.
Pecher also has introduced a proposal requesting the Legislature eliminate majority and minority leader compensation, a measure that would take effect next year.
“There are plenty of people in our community who don't get paid for sitting on boards and doing their civic duty,” Pecher said.
Government Operations Committee members last week voted on proposals to draft both resolutions and while many legislators approved eliminating majority and minority leader wages, some members, including Legislator Cynthia Aikman, were against the idea of eliminating legislator health insurance.
“It's my understanding that we want to be represented by people who are most like us in our districts,”Aikman said. “I'd like to see us represented by a range of ages and in order to invite people to offer themselves up as representatives, I think we need to offer benefits with that.”
Legislator Tim Lattimore said he's not against the 2016 deadline for the resolution but said that there's more to the big picture than just health care for legislators.
“I'm not against it, but I do think that we should take our time and really look at everything at play,” Lattimore said.
Six county legislators — Cynthia Aikman, Steven Barski, Steven Cuddeback, George Fearon, Tim Lattimore and Paul Pinckney — receive health insurance compensation benefits ranging in cost from $6,000 to more than $10,000 a year.
Two legislators — Joseph Runkle and Michael Didio — receive the minimum amount in health compensation, less than $400.
Seven legislators — Tucker Whitman, Michael Chapman, David Axton, Mark Farrell, Hans Pecher, Joe Bennett and Patrick Mahunick — receive no health insurance compensation at all.
Both resolutions will be drafted and brought to the Ways and Means Committee meeting at its meeting on Nov. 20. If approved, they will be voted on by the full Legislature on Nov. 27.
Although Pecher was looking for health insurance changes to take effect sooner rather than later, he said, he's in favor of the compromise if it means something will eventually get done.
“I'd rather have half the loaf than none,” he said. “And I believe that we're moving in the right direction.”