State lawmakers, fresh off of passing a major income tax increase, are turning toward a trio of other ideas as they try to capitalize on a newfound mood at the Capitol of dealing with long-festering budget problems.
The new push is a crackdown on the rising cost of health care for retired state workers. The program costs the state nearly $500 million a year, and more than 90 percent of the retirees and survivors pay no premiums.
The leftover plans are to raise the cigarette tax and borrow money to more quickly pay down a big backlog of bills, both of which could get new life now that the high-pressure political atmosphere surrounding the tax increase is done.
Of the three, the retiree health insurance issue is most likely to become the next rallying cry among a public weary of the cost of state government and the recent Democrat-led incursion into their wallets to pay for years of mismanagement.
The idea is to start charging the retirees who can afford to pay for their health care. And new state research shows some of the 84,100 retirees and survivors appear to possess the ability to pay — the average annual household income for a retired state worker younger than 65 was nearly $78,000.