Up for Debate: State lawmakers' perks

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 1:10am

What perks should or shouldn't state lawmakers receive? Do they deserve all of the ones they get now?

130 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 3/5/13 at 6:06

Based on job performance, no. None. Well, maybe free psychological screening and med samples...but other than that, no.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 6:43

Good morning, Nashville.

From the main article: Lawmakers can also opt into the state’s health insurance program for state employees, which covers 80 percent of the premium. The state’s share of monthly premiums ranges from nearly $6,000 for individuals to $15,400 for families. The health insurance is the big perk...the really big perk....is it a lifetime benefit, like it is for Metro Council members?

Wow...health insurance costs are out of control......6k/mo = 72k/yr for an individual's health insurance and 15.4 k/mo = 184.8k/yr for a family's coverage. And the employee still has to pay another 20% on top of that? Yeah, those who think that our health care delivery system is fine as is must be on the receiving end of all that hard-earned cash....what a colossal rip-off.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/5/13 at 6:44


I think they need a refresher course on moral and ethical understanding too.

By: govskeptic on 3/5/13 at 6:47

One very large perk for a great many of our lawmakers, never mentioned as such,
is what their full time or real employer in private industry is paying them to have
their industry or business being represented as an unlisted advocate or in other
words lobbyist for that industry or business. Banking, Insurance, and telecommunication companies have been notorious in this state for just that

Straight pay is a tricky one to speak on, as we know it's considered Public Service
in some states with little in pay, but in many others it's considered nothing more
than a well paid part-time job. Private perks are there, but usually unaccounted for
by anyone. Travel expense is tricky as well, but it should be no more than actual.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 6:57

The average per capita income in TN is around 24K/yr; health insurance premiums for an individual are over 72k/yr in TN....it's incredible, health insurance premiums can be as much as three times one's annual gross income....and still, some say that we did not need "Obamacare"...that things are just fine...nothing's broke, so nothing needs fixing....the Republicans must be living on a different planet than the rest of us....we need health care reform now...it's bankrupting the nation.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 7:04

Gov..... the lawmaker/lobbyist dual identity phenomenon is becoming the norm in US politics...most incumbents in Washington operate, "leadership PACs"....they finance each others campaigns, in exchange for support on each others pet projects....they scratch each others backs....and its all totally legal....what we have here is a cleptocracy....we are ruled by dens of thieves.....but as long as the bread & circus keep coming, nobody really cares.

By: Kosh III on 3/5/13 at 7:11

They can get into the pension system after only 4 years but state employees have a longer period before they are vested. It should be at least 8 years for these folks.
Their pay should be tied to state employees, the Legislature should only get a raise when employees get one and it should be the same. So when they give out a whopping 1.6%(which doesn't even cover COLA) then the Legislature gets it too. Ditto for Commissioners who should NOT get a greater raise than employees--no more 100% raises for Commissioners!

Per diem?
They should have travel expenses at the same 47 cents a mile as state employees.
No pay for meals--I've never worked at a job where they gave me meals--even at McDonalds I had to pay half-price.
The state should contract with a downtown hotel such as Doubletree and reserve 132 rooms from mid-Jan thru mid-April; one per legislator. That would probably be cheaper and if the session runs longer-to bad so sad.

And no revolving door---a legislator cannot be a lobbyist for at least 5 years after leaving office--nor be any state official or employee. "Avoid even the appearance of evil."

By: Captain Nemo on 3/5/13 at 7:14

Once again govskeptic has a good point. The hidden compensation, that never sees the light of day.

By: Kosh III on 3/5/13 at 7:15

Single payer is the most efficient and cost-effective system for health care yet not one conservative will give a clear answer as to why it's not preferred.
I don't see Canadians or Britons or Aussies clamoring to exchange their system for ours. Funny how the conservative goddess Baroness Thatcher never even considered a privatizing the NHS.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 7:25

I agree, Kosh, single payer is the way to go..or we could emulate Israel's system...in their system there are four different payers...four different plans....four choices....you pick one and go with it....dental is free, abortions are free or dirt cheap, transplants are covered, even if performed outside of Israel....it's the Rolls Royce of national health care systems and the coverage is universal for all Israeli citizens.

Of course, Israel has several umbilical cords to rich donor nations, like the USA and Germany...as a result of all that foreign aid income, they have the available resources to pull this off....unfortunately, Uncle Sam has no rich uncle helping him out.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 7:35

If health care insurance premiums amount to $72,000 per year for an individual, in TN and the avg. annual income is around $24,000; there must be a whole lot of uninsured people in the Volunteer State...or are most of the citizens on Medicare and Medicaid?

Forcing employers to pick up the tab on health care has got to be depressing economic growth in this country; I can understand it when conservatives whine about the costs of doing business today in the USA....one would think that the GOP would want to remove the massive health-care-costs burden from America's employers and spread the load more equitably across board.....but that's not the case, special interest bribes have clouded their powers of reason, or so it seems.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/5/13 at 7:53

PERKS are now part of the American fabric.

The Senate budget committee reports that in the fiscal year 2011 that between food stamps,housing support,child care,medicaid and other benefits the average US houshold below the poverty level which includes both the needy and the underclass received 168.00 a day in goverment benefits.

I am sure there are several posters on this site that undetstand this quite well.

The median household in the United States earns just over 50,000 dollars ayear or 137.00 a day.

Thank goodness for the Republican wealthy who are picking up mpst of this tab.

I am making an assumption that there are considerably more Republican wealthy than Democrats.

By: gdiafante on 3/5/13 at 7:57

You're right Loner, the cost of doing business is increasing. So is the cost of living. If companies, who have many more resources than an individual, are having trouble keeping up with health care costs, how is the individual supposed to?

If employers did not contribute, almost everyone would be without healthcare. It is in the best interest of the entire nation to solve this problem, but the health care industry, big pharma, etc., have far too much influence in Washington. Look at Obamacare, who does it really benefit, people or the insurance industry?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/5/13 at 8:11

Raspy old boy you maybe a Republican, but you are not rich, except for your wishes to be rich. However you’re genetic code will keep you an ass hole.

By: yogiman on 3/5/13 at 8:13

The average pay is 24K but you're paying 72K for insurance, Loner? I believe I'd say to heck with insurance, I'd rather eat than go hungry.

By: yogiman on 3/5/13 at 8:17

How many of you employees employers pay you to come to work other than your salary? The only "expense" I was paid when working for the government was when I took a transfer for the governments benefit.

By: Kosh III on 3/5/13 at 8:18

Corporate welfare is much greater than the assistance giving to the elderly, to minors and other needy individuals.

Boeing has not paid income taxes since 2001 but has received almost 38 billion since that time.
We give massive welfare to rich oil companies; the war industry gets even more--death is preferred by the GOP.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/5/13 at 8:34

The amount of "perks" provided an employee really depends upon the industry. I don't agree with the perks given to law makers, especially the perks for life. That's plain ridiculous.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 8:40

According to the main article, the state pays up to $15,400 per month to cover a lawmaker's family health care premiums and that's only 80% of the total premium...the lawmaker kicks another 20% into the kitty....that's over $184,000 per year to cover one state employee and his/her family....how can this nation survive for very long with runaway health-care costs bankrupting individuals and corporations?

I must admit, I had no idea that health-care insurance premiums were up in the stratospheric levels....it's quite breath-taking. These costs suck all the oxygen out of the room....time to open the windows and let some fresh air in....we have been had.

By: gdiafante on 3/5/13 at 8:40

Let's just say that we give massive welfare, be it to the poor or to corporations or to foreign nations.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 8:48

Who is to blame for this outrageous situation?

The doctors point their fingers at the insurance companies and the lawyers....the insurance companies blame the doctors and lawyers....the lawyers blame the doctors and the insurance companies...and the Republicans simply blame Barack Hussein Obama.

Lots of finger-pointing, but little progress in solving this huge problem. Thanks to the special interests...we have the best government that money can buy....and thanks to Citizens United, it's going to get a lot worse.

The Soviet Union collapsed...our union of American states could follow suit....this is a national security problem....big time.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/5/13 at 8:51

I can see giving to the poor, elderly and disable, but to give to corporation and not expect any return is a sin.

By: bfra on 3/5/13 at 8:54

Loner = I differ on your comment about the government, we have the WORST government that money can buy. When it comes to cuts, they need to start at the top. Government officials are so over paid it is pathetic.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/5/13 at 9:00

A single payer system would solve a lot.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 9:01

The taxpayers are forking over some $15, 400/ month to cover one lawmaker and his family's health insurance...that's serious money....that's like buying a new car every month....12 new cars every year....incredible.

Health care costs are like a financial black hole...and we are spiraling in towards the event horizon and "spaghettification".....good bye, cruel world....

By: yogiman on 3/5/13 at 9:05

When this nation was founded it was thought it would become the oldest nation on earth. It looks like we're on 'death row' now with the "self centered" legislature we now have.

We're just a little over two and a quarter centuries old now. Will we last to two and a half? It doesn't look like it today.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/5/13 at 9:15

I'm not sure that when the country was founded that they were sure that it would make it through the next year. It was an experiment.

By: gdiafante on 3/5/13 at 9:22

You're correct Nemo, they didn't know if if would work or not. It was very much an experiment. I think what yogi meant is the dreams they had should it endure.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 9:36

I wonder...this $184,000 per year price tag for one family's coverage....does that money go into the Senator Frist family's health-care business? These well-insured lawmakers, are they the conduit through which treasure flows from the taxpayers to the Frist family?

By: Kosh III on 3/5/13 at 9:38

The Soviet Union collapsed...our union of American states could follow suit."

The two greatest reason for the collapse was gridlock between factions at the top and an Imperial military budget that took most of the money; can we say Afghanistan? The military budget for the US has DOUBLED since 2001.

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 9:39

Those have to be annual and not monthly numbers, loner.

By: brrrrk on 3/5/13 at 9:41

Capitalist Switzerland is wising up and so should we......

Swiss Voters Approve Limits on ‘Fat Cat’ Executive Pay


By: brrrrk on 3/5/13 at 9:47

Kosh III said

"The military budget for the US has DOUBLED since 2001."

And monies allocated to no-bid contracts have almost tripled.... from approximately .5 billion to approximately 1.3 billion.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 9:50

The American Experiment is still experimental and not for export...when we took over Iraq and Afghanistan, we did not replicate our bicameral legislative chamber idea, for example, we did not replicate our tripartite system of governance : the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government and other key aspects of our constitutional democracy....we export a different product than what is served domestically....is it because our system is not export grade?

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 9:57

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 9:39

Those have to be annual and not monthly numbers, loner.

Maybe it's an NCP typo, Ben.... here is the cut paste from the main article...did I misread it? Here's the cut/paste:

"Lawmakers can also opt into the state’s health insurance program for state employees, which covers 80 percent of the premium. The state’s share of monthly premiums ranges from nearly $6,000 for individuals to $15,400 for families."

I too was flabbergasted to read that, Ben...hopefully those are annual premiums, not monthly premiums...the NCP ought to clarify that, IMO. It's a big perk even if those are annual premiums...if they are monthly premiums, we are in deep doo-doo.

By: pswindle on 3/5/13 at 10:00

NO, the lawmakers need to draw their salary and that's it. If they deserve more, so does every working person. The companies need to pay their employees, mileage all kinds of perks that the Legislative Branch takes home with them. They knew what the salary was when they ran for office.

By: brrrrk on 3/5/13 at 10:05

For those who don't believe that Government has a role in maintaining at least a semblance of income equality I refer you to Federalist #10, where Madison talks about how mankind naturally creates factions based on self interest.....

"But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government."

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 10:05

Ben, let's say that those are annual premiums...with an average per capita income at 24K, how many TN families could afford insurance costing 15K per annum? It's still unaffordable, even at that level....if those are monthly figures, as the NCP states, few can afford health insurance, except those rich enough to self-insure.

Those figures must be annual premiums...but hey, maybe things really are that out of control.

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 10:08

I think they are saying (not so well) that the state pays a portion of the monthly premium that works out to those dollar amounts per year.

It's still very high even for a monthly match. They must be paying almost all of the real insurance cost.

Typically the employer will match half or a little more of the employee cost for the individual's insurance and the employee's only benefits for the family plan is by being a part of whatever group rate the employer is able to negotiate for them based on shopping the group around to various health insurance providers.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 10:17

Great quote, Brrrrk...the old "level playing field" idea.

Resolving conflicts of interest should be governments primary duty...but selfish special interests purchase influence with the political parties and the candidates; this defeats the system....short-circuits the democratic process, creating an overload on the entire system.

The Founders must not have envisioned the political action committee....the PAC....perhaps they assumed that the citizens would never tolerate any of that, so why bother to even address the issue of campaign finance...apparently, it just wasn't on their minds, .

Certainly the political bribe predates the American Revolution..seems like the Founders should have addressed the issue in clear terms.

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 10:22

I'd counter that the founders were very clear about wealth redistribution and not using the money of one person to buy political favor with another.

Reference US Constitution

Article I, Section 2, Clause 3:
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers...

Article I, Section 8, Clause 1:
The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 4:
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 10:25

Yeah, if those are annual premiums, that's still a lot of money...but if the taxpayers pick up 80% of the cost, that's a pretty slick deal for the insured.

The NCP should print a retraction...a correction... on those figures....the text states that those are monthly premiums....it's a 12-fold discrepancy.

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 10:31

In any case that is a very generous benefit. Particularly for life in the case of a lawmaker who works only 4 years.

It'll be moot though when we have to bankrupt out and they all have to fall back on Obamacare though. I suspect the legislators will exempt themselves at that point so their benefits will continue.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 10:36

I agree, Ben, that's a very generous benefit....and we could all end up bankrupt as a result of these out-of-control health-care-costs...both individually, and collectively, as a nation.

We can't endure this forever...something's gotta give.

By: Loner on 3/5/13 at 10:44

Politicians are like waitresses...the pay is minimal, they gotta hustle, and put up with the general public's bitching...but if they kiss enough ass, their tips can provide considerable wealth over time....."Senator...I'll have two contracts over easy, home fries and a side order of pulled pork....and hot tea, please"

By: brrrrk on 3/5/13 at 10:57

By the way Ben...... I'm STILL waiting for that example of a successful society based purely on Libertarian principles.....

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 11:03

When the 'pre-existing' rule hits private insurance companies it won't be insurance anymore. The rates will necessarily go through the roof forcing these companies out of the insurance business and, at best, they will become hired guns to administer the government programs. Price controls and caps on the government insurance will cause a scarcity of quality medical professionals.

The good thing is that it will likely break-up the AMA Medical trust's artificial scarcity that drives up medical costs substantially. BA and Master's level medical professionals will become much more common even in surgical roles. The big medical institutions will be hit hard but the community level will boom churning out less qualified but capable workers who will work for 1/3rd the cost.

Medications and procedures will suffer because with our market falling to price controls there will not be any incentive to develop the next revolutionary treatment or drug but no one will notice because it can only be measured against what might have been and no one will admit this failing.

In short health care will become much cheaper, collateral damage is a concept our society will have to accept, and a visit to the People's Clinic will be just as enjoyable and productive as a day at the DMV.

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 11:10

America was the closest thing that's ever been tried, Brrrrk.

Since we are the big brother to the rest of the civilized world militarily, underwrite the whole price controlled world with our market for medical innovation, and are still able to maintain one of the highest standards of living the world has ever known despite the constant assaults by leftists against what makes us special... I'd say it's a pretty good case study.

By: BenDover on 3/5/13 at 11:11

When obesity is the leading sign of poverty in your nation, I think you've pretty much got it whipped.

By: brrrrk on 3/5/13 at 11:17

In Ben's cynical Ayn Rand driven world no doctor exists purely to help people, no researcher spends hours in the lab looking for a cure because people are dying, no policeman or fireman believes in helping their community, no teacher believes in educating our future, no priest, minister or monk takes a vow of poverty in order to help the less fortunate......... no Jonas Salk, no Ben Franklin, no Mother Teresa.....