6-year deal would have Suffolk employees paying for health benefits

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All Suffolk County workers may soon have to do something that's already a requirement for most people in the private sector -- contribute to their health benefits.

Members of the 175th Suffolk police recruit class celebrated their graduation Thursday. Their union just reached a deal with County Executive Steve Bellone for a new, six-year contract that requires all county employees, including police, to contribute to their health care.

In previous years, neither county workers nor police paid anything for health care. But a few years ago, new employees started contributing. If the new agreement is approved by the county and the unions, employees would pay 2% of their salary this year and would increase gradually until it hits 2 1/2%. There is a minimum contribution and a maximum cap.

Bellone says the changes would lead to $40 million in annual savings. He's urging lawmakers to approve the deal as early as Tuesday. But Legislator Robert Trotta says with the amount of money at stake, they need to make sure they get it right.

Suffolk AME employees will get an eight-year deal. President Dan Levler calls the contract fair to county workers and taxpayers and says the new health care contribution shouldn't be a surprise.

Suffolk's PBA president says the contract has reasonable pay and benefits for his members while at the same time recognizing the reality of the county's finances.

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