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Eye On Boise

Retiree benefits bill passes House

Compromise legislation to trim back Idaho’s costs for health insurance for state retirees, in part by moving all Medicare-eligible retirees off the state plan, passed the House today on a 59-11 vote. “I know there is opposition to this bill,” Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, told the House. “We did the best we could.” Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, said she was the biggest opponent of last year’s version of the bill, but she’s a strong supporter of this version, HB 173, which was negotiated between lawmakers from both parties, the state Department of Administration, and the Idaho Public Employees Association. “This bill is a model of bipartisanship - we worked as one,” Pasley-Stuart said. The measure includes clauses allowing retirees to use unused sick leave to pay some premiums, and some other concessions. Opponents included House Commerce & Human Resources Chair Bob Schaefer, R-Nampa, who said the state committed back in 1988 to providing health coverage for state retirees, and that it was “unconscionable” to change that.

“We’ve not remunerated state employees as we should, that’s clear,” Schaefer told the House. “We’ve done it for many years, that’s clear. Most state employees are not millionaires. … We are betraying their trust by changing this commitment that was made.” Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said longtime state employees feel “betrayed” by the change. “There’s a little group of people, not very many, and we’re all gonna die in the next maybe 20 years, that they could’ve made some accommodation for,” she declared.  The bill now moves to the Senate.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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