Assembly GOP Leader: Voters Will Reject Health Reform Tax
Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines (R-Clovis) on Tuesday predicted that California voters soundly would defeat any proposed ballot measure to expand health care coverage by raising taxes, while Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) disputed elements of a news story detailing a deal that the speaker is working on with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the Sacramento Bee reports.
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Schwarzenegger and Núñez have been considering a possible ballot measure next year as part of a deal to pass comprehensive health care reform (Rojas/Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 9/5). According to the Times, the plan would require all California residents to obtain health care coverage and would provide subsidies to residents who cannot afford coverage (California Healthline, 9/4).
However, Núñez said that he never agreed to a requirement for all individuals to obtain health insurance coverage and that he will pursue a legislative approach to health care reform.
Núñez added that his health care reform bill (AB 8), co-authored with Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), would provide 75% of the funds to cover the 6.7 million uninsured California residents. He added that a ballot measure could ask voters to approve the remaining 25% of funding.
Nonetheless, Villines said he would expect voters to reject such an initiative.
Villines and other Republican lawmakers remain opposed to the governor's plan and the Democrats' bill because they consider any mandatory contributions a tax (Sacramento Bee, 9/5).
Schwarzenegger's reform plan seeks to expand coverage to all uninsured Californians through mandatory contributions from employers, employees, hospitals and physicians, while the Núñez/Perata bill would require contributions only from employers (California Healthline, 9/4).
Schwarzenegger has threatened to veto the Democratic proposal as it is currently structured.
Sabrina Lockhart, spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, said that despite the opposition, the governor "is still committed to getting bipartisan votes, but a ballot measure is an option."
Lockhart added that Schwarzenegger still "thinks his financing plan is the best way to go" (Sacramento Bee, 9/5).
As lawmakers continue the debate, the California Hospital Association's board of directors on Tuesday held a conference call to discuss the proposed mandatory contributions to help finance health care reform. The association also has met with the governor's staff.
Jan Emerson, spokesperson for CHA, said, "The conversations were productive (and) we're making some progress, but we still have not resolved all of our issues" (Sacramento Bee, 9/5).