Restore the bonus, keep senior care

Posted: Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gov. Sarah Palin's state budget provides for $32 million for restoring the longevity bonus, and $13 million to maintain the senior care program. Allen C. Johnson (Feb. 25 letter) urges the state to abandon the bonus to save the $32 million, and increase the amount appropriated for senior care to $25 million. An increase from $120 to $200 per person per month - a huge increase.

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Johnson's' thesis is that this will save $20 million and deny state funds to the affluent while providing greater support to low-income seniors. He assumes many dubious factors in his two-pronged argument. His economic sleight of hand fails to include that the longevity bonus is all too quickly being diminished by the death of those eligible (average age 75-plus?), a huge cash savings to the state at a great cost of human resources - a fact we can do nothing to ameliorate.

Correspondingly, the cost of senior care will continue to rise each year as the number of eligible seniors continues to increase. I also note that to urge a monthly increase of $80 for a $120 unearned benefit is excessive. But there may come a time when a more modest increase of 3 percent or 4 percent per year might be considered appropriate. It is also noteworthy that the bonus is an earned benefit. It's a reward for contributions to the development of the state.

Johnson also justifies his cause by claiming the bonus goes to people with "$200,000-$300,000 annual incomes" or who "hoard a lot of liquid assets." We do not know this to be a fact - neither does he. Perhaps it could be true of some, but it is a fact that the bonus goes to many low-income seniors.

As for affluent seniors, if there are any, it is safe to assume they earned it. But it is a distinction without a difference for the bonus is not means-tested; it is an earned benefit - think Social Security.

Palin is correct. Absent a compelling state need, maintain senior care as a needed grant, restore the bonus as an earned benefit. And perhaps most importantly, keep the promise made.

Andrew Pope


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