budgets

Same-Sex Benefits For Federal Employees Will Cost $99 Million a Year. Is That a Lot?

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How best to scare America away from equality? Not by pulling at their heartstrings or delivering moral debates, but by talking about things in dollars and sense. So when the Congressional Budget Office — that nonpartisan federal agency charged with letting lawmakers know how expensive their bills will be — concluded the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act would cost $898 million over the next nine years, it was time to scare America!

First and foremost, $898 million, over nine years, is not actually a lot of money to the U.S. government. The Los Angeles Unified School District received almost exactly that amount ($829,086,696) from the federal government, this year, as part of its “recovery”/stimulus package. And the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill includes some $3.9 billion in earmarks that lawmakers attached to benefit their own states; one Minnesota rep scored $28 million in transportation dollars for his district.

But that way FoxNews.com is phrasing things —

The CBO said in its Dec. 17 report that the House version of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act — H.R. 2517 — would cost $596 million in direct spending and $302 million in discretionary spending through 2019.

The independent nonpartisan agency found that “providing additional health insurance benefits through the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program” — for active and retired gay federal workers with spouses — “causes the largest increase in both mandatory and discretionary spending — $590 million and $266 million, respectively.”

The analysis notes, however, that enacting the legislation “would not have any direct impact on federal revenues.”

A 2004 analysis by CBO projected that federal outlays for domestic partners receiving federal benefits would cost about $100 million per year in 2010-2014 if the federal government approved same-sex marriage. Of the total, coverage for same-sex spouses of retired enrollees in the FEHB program would cost the government less than $50 million a year through 2014.

The 2004 report was written at the request of then-Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, an opponent of same sex marriage.

This year’s legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., an openly gay lawmaker, and with 138 cosponsors, would allow for homosexual partners of federal employees to receive the same benefits as married spouses, which include health insurance, survivor annuities, compensation for work-related injuries and travel and relocation benefits.

— is angering The Blogs, which faults the media giant’s obvious social agenda.

But there’s no use getting upset with Fox’s alleged spin; the true numbers from CBO — despite whether you’re agreeing with the agency this week — are in there, and that’s where the debate must begin.

But not end.

Because $898M over nine years (under $100M/year) is a pretty small price tag, comparatively, to ensure American families that happen to be gay 1) receive adequate health care; and 2) are not discriminated against simply because two adults who love each other are the same sex.