Senate panel keeps cheap health insurance for state lawmakersby Dara Kam | February 28th, 2012
Sen. Joe Negron wants Florida legislators to pay as much for their health insurance as their employees do. But a majority of his colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee voted to keep the perk after arguing that it helps allow regular folks to serve in office.
Negron filed an amendment that would have hiked lawmakers monthly premiums from $8.34 to $50 a month for individuals and from $30 to $180 a month for families. The change would have brought lawmakers’ health insurance costs in line with what state workers, who’ve gone for six years without a pay raise, pay, which Negron called a bargain.
“To me there’s just no rationale for it,” Negron argued. “We should all be treated equally. Legislators shouldn’t have richer benefits than the people that we work with.”
But Negron’s Republican colleagues expressed concern that the costs of being in office have increased and the cheap health care is a perk for an otherwise demanding job that pays less than $30,000 although it takes up so much time that some lawmakers have no other employment.
Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, called Negron’s proposal a “political statement” that could make discourage Floridians who aren’t rich from running for office.
“It’s very difficult to vote against it. But I don’t think it’s good policy,” Bogdanoff said.
Negron, a candidate for Senate president in 2016 and chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services budget committee, bristled at the criticism.
“It isn’t a political statement,” Negron said, adding that he left the Capitol after midnight this morning and ran into two janitors, one of whom was working a second job.
The $180-a-month family coverage is a great deal, Negron said, because equivalent coverage in the private sector costs up to $500.
“I can see no rationale why we as legislators should be treated five to six times better than 27,000 of our co-workers,” he said. “We’re saying legislators should lead by example…We’re not entitled to preferential treatment.”
Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, held a voice vote on the amendment and ruled that it failed to pass. Negron said he agreed with Alexander’s call.