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The Truth About Lifetime Medical Benefits for Councilmembers

By current City Council Policy, Councilmembers at least 50 years old who leave the City with 5 years of service are entitled to City paid medical benefits for them and their spouse for the rest of their life. This beneift has existed for some time, but recently due to the escalating cost of health care has become increasingly expensive. We estimate that for a Councilmember that leaves at age 50, it will cost the City over $150,000 per Councilmember in taxpayer dollars to pay for this benefit. No wonder that Sunnyvale is the only City in Santa Clara County that still offers this generous benefit. Every other City has eliminated it because it was simply too costly. Here at Special Interest Watch.org we think it's time for taxpayers to stop having to foot the bill for this overly generous benefit in Sunnyvale.

Despite what some incumbents are telling the public, the current City Council voted for lifetime medical benefits for their colleagues, all paid for at taxpayer expense. Even though there was public outrage over this action, and despite a strong editorial and a stern warning from the San Jose Mercury News (February 6, 2007), the current City Council defiantly chose to keep lifetime medical benefits for themselves, in essence snubbing their noses at those who elected them. The Council was, however, not so generous with future Councilmembers, and voted to reduce the benefits for these future officials to a minimum amount. Nevertheless, the current City Council could simply not bear to take these costly benefits away from themselves.

Mayor Tony Spitaleri has continuously failed to tell the truth about this benefit in recent public forums and in his campaign reelection materials by saying the council took away this benefit. The Council absolutely did NOT take this benefit away from themselves and, in fact, Spitaleri himself made the motion for the current council to keep this benefit. In these recessionary times, the cuts have to start at the top, and this Council refuses to do this. Although many Sunnyvale constituents over the past few years have lost not only their jobs but their medical insurance, this Council still feels a sense of entitlement at taxpayer expense. The Council should join the rest of the world and pay for their own medical benefits and not burden the taxpayers for this excessive benefit.

No other city in Santa Clara County gives their council members lifetime medical benefits.So then why does Sunnyvale give these part-time council members and their spouses these benefits? Like other cities before them, all Sunnyvale needs to do to eliminate it is to remove themselves from the CalPERS system and the problem will be solved. This issue is not going away anytime soon. There needs to be council members who will stand up and say “Enough is enough and this benefit needs to end NOW.” The current council seems to be unwilling to do this.

The Council should immediately take away this benefit away from themselves and any past or retired council members. No taxpayer in the City of Sunnyvale should have to be responsible for the medical benefits of any present or past councilmember for the rest of their lives. We cannot have incumbents who continue to lie to the public that they serve.


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Updated October 1, 2016 4:21 PM