Tuesday, September 1, 2020

It is time to end the lifetime health insurance benefit for ex-councilmembers. Tonight the Council will vote on this again.

by Rod Williams - Before the Council tonight is legislation addressing the lifetime benefit of Metro providing health care for former Council members. An attempt to end this benefit has been tried a couple times before and failed. What is on the agenda tonight is a resolution to put back on the Council agenda a bill that would abolish this benefit.  Last council meeting the bill that would do this was deferred indefinitely against the will of the sponsor. 

While serving in the Council, a council member gets Metro health insurance on the same terms as an employee.  They pay the employee's share of the premium and the city pays the bulk of the premium.  This insurance covers the council member, their spouse and any minor children.  When the council member leaves the Council, they continue to receive this benefit.  We are the only city in America that does this. The Federal government does not do this and the State government does not do this.  No private company does this either. This should end. 

 At one time, before term limits, council members were older when they first got elected and there was very little turn over in the council. If was not uncommon for council members to serve twenty or thirty years or more and they were usually retirement age by the time they retired.  Many died while in office. There were just not that many ex-councilmembers so this was not that expensive. 

Now, there is at least a full turnover ever 8 years. Also, Council members are of a younger age when first elected. I don't know the number, but there are a lot of ex-councilmembers and the number of ex council members is growing all the time. 

Service on the Council is demanding. A lot more is involved than just attending two meetings a month. Council members must handle constituent service, study issues, attend lots of committee meetings, and return phone calls and respond to emails. It is not an easy job.   However, that does not justified a lucrative retirement benefit for you and your family for life.  If elected at say age 32, serve two terms and live to be75, then the tax payers provide the ex-Councilmember and his family with health insurance for 35 years! That is a retirement benefit that can be worth a million dollars, for 8 years of part-time service. With Metro broke and the city's financial picture looking pretty bleak, the Council ought to do the right thing and end this benefit now.

I am OK with members getting this benefit while serving, but it should not be a lifetime benefit. For the record, as a former council member, I do receive this benefit. 

For more on this issue see Entitled or Excessive? Some Metro Nashville councilmembers spar on $1 million benefit.

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