Savings from Insurance Contributions Could Backfill Cuts to Critical Services
SALEM— House Republicans yesterday introduced legislation to require state employees to pay five percent of their base salaries toward their health insurance costs. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, HB 2011 would save $69 million in General Fund dollars this biennium alone.
“We are making difficult decisions to balance the budget, yet there’s little will in the Capitol to address the state’s biggest cost driver,” said Joint Ways and Means Co-Chair Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point), the bill’s chief sponsor. “It’s wrong to cut funding for education, public safety and human services without considering reasonable reforms to Oregon’s growing personnel costs.”
HB 2011 would require state employees to pay five percent of their base salaries toward group health benefits, with a minimum payment of $50 per month to a maximum of $500 per month. Currently, state employees are not required to make any contributions toward their health insurance premiums. The bill does not apply to Oregon teachers, who already contribute to their health insurance costs.
“The required contribution in this bill is far less than what most private sector employees are required to provide,” Rep. Richardson said. “This bill will help make personnel costs more sustainable, while generating the savings we need to support our schools and public safety agencies.”
Throughout the 2011 session, House and Senate Republicans have proposed a number of reforms to bring rising personnel benefits and pension costs under control. While these reforms have been rejected by legislative Democrats, Rep. Richardson says there’s still time to pass this measure and redirect the savings to critical services.
“HB 2011 offers an alternative to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes,” Rep. Richardson said. “Savings from this bill would also allow us to close funding gaps in our public safety budget. Raiding our reserve funds and weakening voter-approved ballot measures, as some have suggested, are false choices when $69 million is still on the table.”