Astorino: County Unions Should Pay Toward Healthcare

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County Executive Rob Astorino

County Executive Rob Astorino told business leaders Thursday morning that he intends to pressure unions to have their employees pay a portion of their health care benefits in efforts to reduce costs this year.
In the county executive’s annual address before the Westchester County Association at the Westchester Marriot in Tarrytown, Astorino said  it is “absolutely crazy” that the union members don’t contribute for their health care coverage. Last year, Astorino successfully fought for county managers and non-unionized employees to begin paying between 10 and 20 percent of their costs.
“I think the public is clearly on our side,” he said. “When most people are paying 20, 30, 40, 50 percent of their costs in the private sector and when government employees on the federal level are paying for 25 percent of their health care costs, I think it’s outrageous that county employees don’t pay a dime.”
While there are other efforts at both the county and state level that must be done to cut spending, Astorino said the only way to make Westchester more affordable for is either to continue to shrink the workforce or to work with the unions to make the workforce more affordable. So far, unions have resisted, he said.
But the urgency is increasing. Currently, 55 percent of  the cost of a county employee goes toward benefits, including health care and pension, Astorino said. When GM declared bankruptcy, it was at 37 percent.
Health care for its employees, which cost $115 million last year, is projected to rise to $150 million by 2015 without changes. Pension costs, he said, will triple from last year’s $54 million to $163 million in that same timeframe.
Another key cost is Medicaid. The county, which contributed $205 million sees a 3 percent annual increase.
He applauded Gov. Cuomo’s pledge to closely examine meaningful mandate relief and Medicaid reform.
Despite the alarm, Astorino said the work to get Westchester’s fiscal house in order is on the right course. For one of the few times in history, taxpayers will see a reduction and the conversation has been changed.
“We’re on the right path and bumpy as it is we just have to stay on it,” Astorino said.

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