A bill to reduce lifetime health benefits for Metro Nashville City Council members passed on Tuesday. Mayor John Cooper quickly approved it on Wednesday. However, there were significant amendments from the initial proposal to the adopted version.
Notably, the final version of the bill extended the grandfathering deadline – which also required council members to serve eight years or more – from 2023 to 2027. Additionally, Metro government will cover 75 percent of benefits during the first two years of continued participation in their healthcare plan, 50 percent for the next two years, and 25 percent after that. In the initial proposal, Metro government would’ve covered 25 percent.
Unlike their government employee peers, Metro Nashville City Council members receive special treatment when it comes to health benefits. If they serve the two-term limit in full, they are eligible to receive lifetime health benefits on the taxpayer’s dime. All other Metro Nashville employees must work 20 years before earning similar lifetime benefits. These lifetime benefits reportedly cost taxpayers over $800,000 annually, which is projected to reach over $1.2 million by 2024.
Council member Tonya Hancock proposed BL2020-387 to change that rule in August. Hancock argued the bill was a step toward balancing the city budget and, in turn, lower property taxes. The bill would cut back on the 75 percent government-subsidized lifetime insurance for Metro council members. Hancock noted that a 2014 study discovered that no other peer cities offer retiree medical coverage for their council members. She bolstered her argument for the bill by noting that last year’s largest-ever property tax increase and over $4 billion debt with depleted reserves were further signs that the lifetime benefits were unwise spending of taxpayer money.