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Lawmakers keeping free health premiums in House budget

The newly unveiled House budget appears to have some intriguing language that's absent from this year's spending plan: A specific mandate that taxpayers continue to pay the health-insurance premiums of lawmakers, political appointees, high-ranking employees and couples who both work in state government.

The free premium subsidy, known as the "pay all" (as in taxpayers pay all) to the Department of Management Services, appears in the proposed budget for the first time on page 371 of the bill in section d: The agencies shall continue to pay premiums on behalf of employees exempt from making contributions, including those employees participating in the Spouse Program in accordance with section
60P-2.0036, Florida Administrative Code, and those employees filling positions with "agency pay all" benefits.

The total subsidy costs taxpayers nearly $45 million annually. Of the roughly 27,000 pay alls, about 2,400 earn more than $100,000. More here

Also unchanged in the budget: The amount that the rest of state workers pay for health insurance. It remains at $50 for single coverage and $180 monthly for family coverage. For the high-deductible plan, it remains at $15 for the individual and $64.30 for family coverage.

But state workers aren't living the life of luxury. The budget calls for a 3 percent cut to state worker salaries for an $80 million savings. But, in contrast to last year's vetoed 2 percent pay cut for workers earning over $45,000, the House budget empowers agency heads to do the cutting and the firing to save the equivalent amount of money. So some people could lose their jobs while others could actually get raises.

The language:in lieu of effecting a 3 percent across the board salary reduction, agency heads are provided additional flexibility to best manage their agency’s staffing needs to ensure the mission and goals of their respective agencies are met. For Fiscal Year 2010-2011, agency heads are authorized to impose layoffs, reclassify employees, terminate employees or impose salary reductions or adjustments for individual or groups of employees while ensuring the agency remains within its salary and benefits appropriation.

The House budget also cuts the health-insurance premiums of about $150 monthly to former state workers.