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Virtuoso urges elimination of health insurance benefit

by jmaloni
Tue, Sep 6th 2011 04:05 pm

Minority leader points to ongoing fiscal strain

If the Niagara County Legislature enacts legislation authored by Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, a health insurance benefit offered to county lawmakers since the 1970s will be eliminated - leading to a projected $81,000 savings.

Virtuoso will formally introduce the measure at tonight's meeting of the County Legislature in Lockport.

The Niagara County Office of Management and Budget and the Risk Management Office project annual savings of $81,000 based on anticipated costs of offering the health insurance benefit to those lawmakers currently receiving it.

"In light of our current budget situation, the time has come to eliminate unnecessary perks," Virtuoso said this morning. "One of the perks we have as county legislators is fully paid health insurance, and I no longer think we can ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for that."

Virtuoso also said he believed eliminating the benefit is necessary if legislators are to lead on budget cutting.

"We are asking our department heads to do more with less, to make cuts, to make tough choices. And we are going to ask our unions to make concessions," the Niagara Falls Democrat said. "It's time we do the same."

In the past, the county has saved money by consolidating county workers on one health plan, and no longer offering county lawmakers lifetime health insurance for longevity in office.

"We need to be leaner and smarter in government," Virtuoso said. "And we can't have one set of standards for politicians and another for the people we represent. This is a real opportunity to cut costs and lead by example."

Virtuoso's measure will be introduced formally tonight, but county lawmakers will be unable to vote on it before sending it to the administration committee, as it has a fiscal impact on the county.

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