On Monday evening, the County Legislature voted to require County Legislators and the County Comptroller to pay a portion of their health insurance costs. What the Republican leadership isn’t telling the public is that unlike the Democratic bill, they have given a free ride to four countywide officials, all of whom happen to be Republicans.
“Of course we support legislators and all officials paying 15% – but it has to be done legally, and it has to include everyone equally,” said Democratic minority leader Sandy Goldberg. The county charter does not grant the County Executive the authority to impose such a policy, but instead he has had the Republican Legislature act illegally in order to ensure that he does not have to pay. This is a dangerous precedent to establish.
Last fall, Democrats passed a bill to require all elected officials to pay a portion of their health insurance costs, as a means of reducing the burden on taxpayers. This policy has been in place for years for rank and file county employees. However, rather than live up to his rhetoric of cutting costs for taxpayers, Steinhaus vetoed the bill, and Republican legislators refused to stand with taxpayers and support an override. At the time, Steinhaus’ attorney indicated that the policy would be illegal.
“Republicans grandstand about saving taxpayers money, but if that was really their concern, then why did Steinhaus veto last year’s resolution, and why didn’t Republicans override his veto? Seems to be they talk the talk but don’t really walk the walk,” said County Democratic Chair Elisa Sumner
As of 2009, the salaries of these officials were as follows:
- County Executive Steinhaus: $139,869
- County Sheriff Anderson: $125,664
- District Attorney Grady: $125,600
- County Clerk Kendall: $106,023
According to the Census Bureau, the median income for Dutchess County is $65,847. With their six figure salaries that double their average constituent, it’s clear that these officials need the free ride their Republican colleagues insist on giving them.
“Apparently it was a good investment when Steinhaus gave over $37,000 to get Republican County Legislators elected,” commented Pat Kelly, of the County Democrats’ Public Relations Committee.