Full-time perks for part-time work? For these politicians, taxpayers footed the bill

Bloustein Local Government | News

Mercer County’s elected commissioners earned a salary of just $32,853 last year. They largely hold jobs outside their political posts, with careers in government, non-profits or the corporate world that pay the bills.

To the public, the county describes its seven commissioners as part timers. But when it comes to health benefits, the commissioners treat themselves as full-time employees — despite a law that seeks to limit full-time perks from going to part-time officials.

Over the past decade, Mercer County taxpayers have paid more than $900,000 to provide insurance to commissioners who signed up for the state’s health plan, county records show. More than half of that expense went to three board members who, under the statute, were required to work at least 35 hours a week to be eligible.

Better defining the do’s and dont’s would go a long way, said Marc Pfeiffer, a professor at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

Pfeiffer said he believes most of those receiving benefits are trying to follow the rules. But he said it is apparent some officials are confused by the hours requirement.
“There’s going to be a percentage — a small percentage — of outliers who try to or are gaming the system with this,” Pfeiffer said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of people caught in the middle who actually do stuff.”

Nj.com, January 29, 2024