Economist Addresses Ballot Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research, Referendum on Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Stephen Levy, director and senior economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, discussed several issues related to California's economy, including two health-related measures on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot (Abate et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24).
Proposition 71 would issue state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other colleges. State analysts say the measure could cost a total of $6 billion including interest (California Healthline, 10/22).
Levy said that although the state is facing a budget deficit, the cost of Proposition 71 compared to the budget is relatively low. He also classified California as a "state and a nation," adding, "As a legal entity, we are a state. But in terms of size we can imagine funding things that are normally open only to nations," such as stem cell research.
"We are the world's sixth-largest economy, and that does count for something," he said (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24).
Under Proposition 72, California residents can vote "yes" to uphold or "no" to repeal SB 2, a state law that will require some employers to provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage.
SB 2, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, would require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007.
Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage (California Healthline, 10/22).
Levy said the measure "is mainly justifiable as an innovation that will move the nation," adding, "There are issues and uncertainties about it on its own, but it's actually trying to do something to address a problem that nobody else is addressing" (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24).
Additional information on propositions 71 and 72 is available online.