Dont exempt lawmakers from cost-cutting plan
State Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, campaigned for the Legislature with a pledge she would be a fiscal conservative, and she is keeping that promise.
As Thursday’s Daily Sentinel article by Charles Ashby detailed, Bradford is now calling on Colorado government to stop offering medical benefits to state employees who only work part time.
It’s not an outrageous request at a time when Colorado is faced with increasingly problematic budget issues. And, as Bradford noted, few in the private sector offer such benefits to part-time employees.
What would be outrageous is if the part-time members of the state Legislature decided to exempt themselves from any cut in health care benefits that they apply to other state employees.
Yet Bradford offered a rationale for doing just that when she was questioned by Ashby. Although legislators are paid a part-time salary of $30,000 a year — plus a per-diem — many work close to full-time hours, she said.
That may be true for some, but certainly not all, lawmakers. And roughly a third of the members don’t sign up for the health care benefits or don’t utilize the full package.
But more importantly, the Colorado Legislature is supposed to be made up of citizen lawmakers — not full-time professional politicians. They are supposed to serve the state, not be treated royally by other state residents. There is no sound reason these citizen representatives should treat themselves differently from other part-time state employees.
To her credit, Bradford said she wants to discuss the issue with other lawmakers before deciding whether legislators should be exempt from a medical-benefits ban for part-time state workers.
She may also want to discuss with them just how much savings may actually accrue to the state if it drops benefits for part-time workers. A little more than 5 percent of the state’s expense for health care benefits — or about $10 million — goes to paying benefits for part-time workers.
But the actual savings might be less if, by dropping coverage for part-time workers, the state health care premium per worker increases. One member of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee suggested that is a possibility.
Punishing part-time state workers for marginal savings would hardly demonstrate fiscal conservatism.
Whatever the Legislature decides to do with Bradford’s request regarding health care benefits, lawmakers must not treat themselves as some special class of workers, exempt from the rules that apply to everyone else.