House Democrats Want Health Care Cuts For Reps

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Monday House democrats proposed removing one of their most generous perks-- lifetime health care-- to show they, too, are feeling the heat of the state's financial crisis.

"We need to lead by example, so we're starting with our own 'House,'" says House Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman, (D)-Detroit.

Currently, legislators are eligible for lifetime benefits after just six years of service. That commitment will jump to 30 years if this legislation passes. Tobocman says the cuts aren't stopping there.

"We may see staff reductions, and we plan to increase co-pays for each employee here in the state," he says. And they're banning using taxpayers' money for politicians' out-of-state travel-- all of which Representative Rick Jones, (R)-Grand Ledge, supports.

"I don't have any problem with raising my co-pay or monthly payments to have medical insurance," he says. "Certainly we need to feel the same pain as everyone else in Michigan."

The cuts will save the House $3 million in their attempt not to cut school funding. And stripping future reps of lifetime benefits would save the state an additional $800,000 a year-- but not right away.

"This is a very big deal," says Bill Rustem, president of Public Sector Consultants. "It will save a lot of money, not immediately but long-term."

And Rustem says long-term investments are what the state needs during a financial crisis. He also sees Senate following suit.

"I think we'll see the elimination of lifetime health benefits for legislators, and I think that will elad to similar questioning of benefits for other public employees," Rustem says.

"We're ending all special treatment for legislators," says Tobocman.

The House will soon vote on the lifetime health care legislation, but the other cuts will be enacted without a vote.

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