Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). (May 25, 2011)

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). (May 25, 2011) Credit: David Pokress

The Bellone administration may have won the battle on layoffs Tuesday, but lawmakers Tuesday night balked, at least temporarily, at requiring nearly 500 top managers, elected officials and political aides to pay up to 25 percent of their health insurance premiums.

The measure fell two votes short of the 12 needed for passage because Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) was not present and another Democrat, Ricardo Montano of Brentwood, said the resolution should be vetted and debated first in legislative committee.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider pressed for an immediate vote, saying County Executive Steve Bellone wants to "send a clear message" there must be "shared sacrifice" to solve Suffolk's impending $530 million budget shortfall.

Bellone last week in his State of the County message said he and his top 17 aides would take a pay freeze through 2014 and would begin paying as much as a 25 percent share of health insurance costs. The administration also filed a proposal to freeze pay for appointed employees, but it did not press for an immediate vote.

"We need to move sooner rather than later to set an example for the rest of the workforce," said Legis. Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon), the budget committee chair.

But Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said, "We should not be pitting one group of employees to coerce another group of employees to help fund insurance costs." Others said there is ample time to review the issue because the county executive's proposal does not take effect until Nov. 1.

A majority of the Democratic caucus voted for resolution, saying most county residents already pay a share of their health insurance costs and county workers have to catch up. "Many people are looking at the county workforce and saying, 'When are they going to chip in?' " said Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville).

But Kennedy said the county, unlike other health insurance providers, is self-insured and there are no upfront premiums. "If a county worker doesn't go to the doctor, it doesn't cost us anything," he said. Kennedy also said unions have made major concessions, such as increasing co-pays, reducing coverage and paying virtually all medical equipment costs.

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