City-council health-insurance issue revisited
A city council can not increase their compensation without having to stand for re-election. However, a 2007 change in state law permits them to immediately bestow generous health-insurance benefits on themselves. At its first meeting last January, the Bothell City Council did just that (see Jan. 16 Reporter article). The insurance covers not only the councilmember but also their spouse and all dependents at no cost! How many of us are so fortunate today?
In order to take effect, at least four of the seven had to sign up. At that time, four councilmembers already had medical insurance either through their employment or their spouse. One of those, Sandy Quinn, chose to drop her employer coverage and joined Bill Evans, Joshua Freed and Mark Lamb in taking advantage of the benefit they had just voted themselves. (Quinn stated at the Nov. 25th council meeting that she previously had to pay to cover her husband.)
During the recent budget hearing for the city’s 2009-10 budget, several citizens testified that such a benefit was overly generous and insensitive to the impact the hard economic times are having many of our citizens. It will cost the taxpayers $16,000 (’09) and $17,370 (’10) for each councilmember. It was suggested that the $133,550 in the budget should instead be donated to Hopelink to help meet the needs of those who are really struggling. The council brushed that aside. (A Dec. 3 article in the Reporter dramatized just how bleak Hopelink’s situation is.)
But something else came out during the hearing. There is a gross disparity in the compensation being received by the individual councilmembers. For the two-year budget period, councilmembers Freed, Lamb, Quinn and Evans are receiving more than $45,000 in pay and benefits while councilmen Spivey and Ewing are only receiving the $12,000 stipend — just over 25 percent of the other four.
The case of councilwoman Samborg is even more unfair. She opposed granting the benefit in January and has refused to participate. Her husband’s insurance requires her to pay $150/month to maintain her coverage since she has other insurance available. Over the two-year period, that effectively reduces her compensation to $8,400! That’s just 19 percent of what the other four are receiving. You have to admire her commitment to her principles.
On Dec. 2, a majority of the council approved the budget and continued their overly generous benefits. The voters next November will have their chance to pass judgment on their action.