The Health of the Legislature
Katherine Gregg has checked in on the latest tally of RI legislators’ voluntary healthcare contributions:
More and more of the state’s 113 legislators have “volunteered” over the years to pay a portion of the premiums for the health, dental and vision benefits they receive, which currently cost the state $19,004 a year for a family plan and $6,800 for individual coverage. …
As of Wednesday of this week, only 6 of the 38 senators, and 7 of the 75 House members had advised the legislative business office that they were willing to pay a 20-percent share of the premiums for their coverage. The majority of those paying a portion pay less.
As I’ve noted, before, I differ from many of my fellow right-reformers in believing that it’s worth considering a change to the General Assembly such that it wouldn’t be prohibitive to those whose careers aren’t flexible or who don’t stand to profit from the disruptive part-time job by much more than their nominal salaries and benefits.
Also in the print edition of the paper (although not online, that I could quickly find) was a table of some of the top Assembly campaign spenders, topping out at $1,021,018 for Steven Constantino (who ran for Providence mayor) and $131,003 for Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, as well as a story about Patrick Lynch’s campaign spending even while he wasn’t campaigning for anything. It’s quite a commitment to hold public office, and a sense of civic responsibility will carry potential candidates so far. Public dollars for public jobs represent a much cleaner deal than a system that relies upon the sideline of special-interest campaign donations and the extra-official perks and income that derive from political connections.
Of course, paying legislators more won’t prevent their continuing to peddle their authority for corrupt benefits, but it will increase the competition for their offices.