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Representatives reject cuts to their own health insurance.

April 13, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Rep. Trent Skaggs wants Missouri lawmakers to feel the squeeze in this year's state budget cuts.

Debate erupted in the House Wednesday after Skaggs, D-North Kansas City, presented an amendment that would cut elected officials health insurance benefits in order to save money for other services slated to be cut.

Despite numerous pleas from House Democrats, the amendment failed by a 75-78 margin in the Republican controlled chamber.

The measure would have reduced the health benefits received by elected officials from the state by 20 percent. Skaggs aimed to attach it to a budget that has taken fire for its cuts to state health care programs like Medicaid.

"I think as leaders we need to sacrifice first and then ask others to sacrifice," Skaggs said.

But some Republicans saw the proposed cut differently.

Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said that the proposal was "unreasonable" and said that maybe legislators should just volunteer their time.

"Why just 20 percent, why not ask this body to forgo all their health insurance?" he asked. "Are we expected to come down here and represent the people for nothing?"

Lembke said that representatives' $31,000 annual salary was a sacrifice enough already.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, threw his support behind the amendment and challenged Gov. Matt Blunt and other Republicans to lead by example.

Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence, said that he had already given up state health insurance and welcomed other representatives to join him.

"This is an opportunity for this body to say we are willing to put our money where our mouth is," Kuessner said.