One county lawmaker's attempt at legislator health care reform was dead on arrival Monday in Mayville.
In no uncertain terms, the County Legislature's Administrative Services Committee refused to support Legislator Rudy Mueller's proposal to take away taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for legislators' families, which will come before the full legislative body next week.
County Legislator Wally Huckno, D-Jamestown, called Mueller's proposal ''odorous'' and ''contradictory'' with respect to Mueller's job as a doctor. He also objected since Mueller's proposal emerged from a larger set of recommendations recently made by the legislature's Salary Review Commission.
''I see you just jumping in and grabbing their work and trying to get headlines,'' Huckno told Mueller during the committee's monthly meeting late Monday.
Mueller, a Democrat in his first term representing District 18 in Lakewood, did not see the need to wait to make the recommendation. He was one of those pushing for the outright elimination of legislators' health insurance benefits earlier this year.
''It just doesn't seem fair to get health insurance when other part-time people don't,'' Mueller said.
Mueller also said the proposal would save $100,000 a year, money he believes could be better spent elsewhere.
Some committee members expressed reluctance to accept Mueller's proposal before all the Salary Review Commission's recommendations could be reviewed. Those recommendations include pay raises for legislators and, in one scenario, a 32 percent reduction in the number of legislators on the payroll.
County Legislator James Caflisch, D-Clymer and the committee's ranking member, called Mueller's proposal premature. He also pointed out that, since the proposal wouldn't even take effect until after the next legislative elections in November 2009, they were in no hurry to move on the issue.
Another committee member pointed to what he described as the nation's broken health care system as a reason to vote against Mueller's proposal.
''Until that gets fixed, I'm not going to take insurance away from anyone,'' said County Legislator Stephen Keefe, D-Fredonia and Administrative Services Committee chairman.
For county taxpayers, barely a penny per thousand is at stake when it comes to the issue of health insurance benefits for legislators' families, but it remains a priority for many lawmakers who hope to champion government efficiency.
A proposal to eliminate legislators' health insurance entirely was defeated earlier this year by a three-vote margin, and a subsequent proposal coupled with a pay raise was voted down two months later.