Belshe Recommends Voters Choose Whether to Increase Tobacco Tax To Fund Children’s Health Insurance
Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshe on Tuesday suggested that lawmakers allow state voters to decide whether to increase the state tobacco tax to fund an expansion of children's health insurance, the Sacramento Bee reports.
A coalition of children's advocacy groups has proposed a $1.50-per-pack tobacco tax to fund children's health insurance and is preparing to circulate petitions to place the initiative on the next statewide ballot. In addition, two lawmakers have introduced a bill (AB 1670) that would provide tax credits to employers for private health insurance coverage and impose tax penalties on parents who do not insure themselves or their children.
Belshe, who spoke at a panel meeting convened by the New American Foundation, said that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is committed to expanding health insurance programs for children in 2006 but that changes will depend on available funding. She added that the initiative being circulated by children's advocacy groups "calls into question the relevance of seeking legislative solutions on this important issue in 2006."
Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) said she is willing to work with the governor to expand children's health insurance, adding that "[i]f he's willing to work with us on the policy, as well as on the costs, there's no need for the initiative" (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 11/16).