In a move that puts more daylight between himself and his fellow Democrats on the issue of health benefits for elected officials, Mayor Pasquale Menna today said he would move to eliminate insurance benefits for himself “and all future mayors” of Red Bank.

Citing public sentiment, Menna said in a press release that since the coverage was instituted during the administration of Mayor Michael Arnone in the late 1980s, “the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed and is now seen by many in our community as a benefit that should not be provided to elected officials.”

“My sense is that the electorate is saying that they believe officials performing their duty should be adequately compensated but that health insurance should not be provided,” Menna says in the release.

Earlier this year the council, led by rookie member and finance committee chairman Michael DuPont, rejected calls that the coverage for elected officials be dropped, and instead opted to have officials pay the same percentage of the premium costs as borough employees. That change is expected to take effect in 2008.

At the time, Menna announced that he would personally withdraw from the plan. That put Menna in rare league with Republicans John Curley and Grace Cangemi, who have waived the coverage for themselves.

In his announcement today, Menna reiterated his plan to forego taxpayer-funded insurance. Instead, he said, he would pay for his coverage under federal COBRA laws that allow workers to remain in group plans while paying for the coverage themselves.

From the announcement:

I respect the legislative desire of the Borough Council, but have always stated that I would reserve my options as Mayor pending that recommendation of Council. I believe that the contribution toward the cost of benefits by elected officials is a welcomed change to the existing policy, but I will opt to terminate the benefit in its entirety for myself and any future Mayor.

Menna also takes on the failure of Congress to do something about healthcare insurance nationally:

Our nation is in a Dickensian State when it comes to health and wellness public policy. The average person is either uninsured or underinsured. We as taxpayers and employees are all paying a premium for the uninsured and I firmly believe that we all need a national basic health insurance for all citizens to be funded by all citizens. Right now we are all indirectly paying for the uninsured and we have a national government that seems to take its health policy directives from the profits of multinational insurance companies and lobbyists.

We expect to hear more about this at tonight’s borough council meeting, which begins at 7:30p. Here’s the agenda; health insurance isn’t on it.

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