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Opinion

Suffolk and unions make deal on health care

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on March 24.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on March 24. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Daily Point

New contracts: All pay for healthcare

County Executive Steve Bellone says that Suffolk has inked a pact with every county union to begin controlling health care costs.

That’s news because last year Suffolk County spent about $450 million on employee health care, an increase of almost 50 percent in just six years.

According to Bellone, one big change is that every employee will contribute to health care costs, set as a percentage of income. Workers will kick in 2 percent of their salaries for the coverage, rising to 2.5 percent over the five years of the pact. The minimum contribution is $1,500 a year and the max is $3,750.

In the previous collective bargaining agreement only workers hired after 2012 contributed, and the amount was set at 15 percent of the workers’ premiums. The biggest change in the employee healthcare plan will be new and increased co-pays and deductibles for every employee, which county officials say will save about $8.5 million a year on services and $4.3 million a year on prescription drugs.

But the sting for most union workers will be softened because the county has agreed to annual raises with its two biggest unions, the Police Benevolent Association and the Association of Municipal Employees. The PBA gets 1.875 percent per year for six years and AME gets 1.5 percent annually for eight years.

The health care deal comes well before the current pact was set to expire in December 2020, and runs through the end of 2025. The givebacks come after health care savings that were supposed to materialize in the last agreement took much longer to realize than was hoped.

First, union members will have to ratify the pacts. Then, when they are implemented, it will become clear what effect the new rules will have. And county officials, as optimistic as they are about the changes they’ve negotiated, acknowledge that the unions are fantastically knowledgeable in constructing these complicated pacts in their favor.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

When you wish upon a star

If the proposed $2 trillion federal infrastructure plan that President Donald Trump and congressional leaders agreed to last week comes to fruition, and that’s a BIG if, Long Island will be ready with its wish list.

At the first meeting of the year of the Regional Economic Development Council last week, Long Island Association chief executive Kevin Law, who co-chairs the council, suggested developing a list of potential projects that could benefit from the federal dollars.

A similar list, Law said, initially prepared years ago, must be updated.

So, he has tasked the council’s infrastructure working group with taking care of that, while also seeking new ideas.

Among the potential projects likely to make Long Island’s infrastructure inventory: Improving or widening the Sagtikos State Parkway and electrifying the Long Island Rail Road to Port Jefferson and Riverhead.

The last three items on Law’s initial list?

“Sewers, sewers, sewers!” he said.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Mum's the word...

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Final Point

Running or running away

Still waiting.

That’s the status for those anticipating news of a Mayor Bill de Blasio presidential run. News reports suggested he would announce this week, but in a Monday NY1 appearance he said he wouldn’t announce his decision before the week is out.

Wednesday is his 58th birthday, so maybe he’s busy celebrating. Next week’s busy, too, given his 25th wedding anniversary with Chirlane McCray, a key and longrunning adviser (one of his last remaining) who is central to his decision-making.

Over the last two weeks, de Blasio pumped $29,176 into national audience ads on his unofficial campaign Facebook page. But as of early Wednesday afternoon the page was not running any active ads, according to Facebook’s political ad archive.

A reset ahead of launch ads? Closing down shop? Only time will tell.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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