Editorial: Move to end health benefit should extend to boards throughout suburbs

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted1/8/2019 7:03 PM
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  • Mo Iqbal

    Mo Iqbal

Newly elected trustee Mo Iqbal has raised an important question about perks for his fellow elected officials on the Kane County Board. It's a question that ought to be asked more often on boards and commissions throughout the suburbs.

Should Kane County Board members continue to receive taxpayer-subsidized health insurance?

Iqbal thinks not. He looks at $237,681 taxpayers shelled out for insurance benefits for county board members in 2018 and asks whether that is something the county should be paying. He looks at potentially $25,422 per person in health insurance benefits provided for full-time Kane County employees in 2019 and asks how the part-time county board members justify joining in -- particularly when those benefits are not available to other part-time Kane County employees.

"This is an outrageous amount of compensation for a part-time elected position in our county, where per capita income is $30,000 and median household income is a mere $70,000," Iqbal wrote in a letter described last week by our Jim Fuller.

The health insurance benefits, by the way, are on top of a $25,000 annual salary paid to county board members.

We're not sure we can go as far as to concur with Iqbal's assessment of the practice as "corruption," but we certainly agree it is not right. To be sure, people who serve on county boards or other boards and commissions give their time to solve often difficult and complex problems. They deserve acknowledgment and appreciation. But when taxpayers are called upon to provide them more and more perks, the nature of the work begins to take on a character very different from that of "public service."

Iqbal's proposal is not entirely new. Two years ago, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen asked for a show of hands from county board members who would surrender their benefits to help avert a budget deficit. Not a single hand went up.

That lack of spirit doesn't bode well for the success of Iqbal's proposal, but we're glad he's keeping the issue alive. He originally intended the question to face a vote as early as this week, but fellow board members persuaded him instead to send the idea to a board committee for a more complete discussion.

OK, fine. But that discussion needs to be held soon, and the issue should be brought back promptly to the full board, where, at the very least, every member can be put on record regarding whether taxpayers should underwrite full-time health insurance benefits for their part-time job or whether board members should get their insurance through the exchanges, their business or their employer, as any other regular citizen would have to do.

And then, wouldn't we love to see a similar show of accountability from every elected board and commission in the suburbs that permits such a perk?

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