Health Reform Talks Continue as Governor Vetoes Democratic Plan
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Friday vetoed legislation (AB 8) by Democratic legislative leaders that aimed to overhaul California's health care system, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The bill, by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), would have been funded largely through mandatory employer contributions of at least 7.5% of payroll (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 10/13).
The governor argued that the measure would not reduce health care costs and would place too much of the financial burden on employers (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 10/13).
Schwarzenegger said, "The time is now for all of us to return to the negotiating table, find middle ground and pass the comprehensive reforms we need to fix our broken health care system."
Meanwhile, the governor's revised health care reform plan would require employers to contribute zero to 4% of payroll, based on a sliding scale.
The Democrats have rejected the low contributions, as well as Schwarzenegger's plan to require all residents to obtain health insurance.
Núñez said, "This veto notwithstanding, where we end up on health care will look a lot like AB 8 -- particularly on affordability, fair participation from employers and keeping the costs of prescription drugs down" (Sacramento Bee, 10/13).
On Friday, Núñez signaled that the special legislative session to reach a compromise on health care reform will continue through mid-November and not end on Tuesday as initially expected, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/13).
Schwarzenegger and Democrats are negotiating a financing proposal to be placed on the ballot. Last week, Schwarzenegger unveiled a health care reform proposal that partially would be funded by leasing the state lottery to a private company (California Healthline, 10/12).
Núñez said he hopes to put a proposal on the ballot either in June or November 2008 (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/13).
As the governor and legislators debate funding options for health care reform, a new survey by Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University found that 52% of voters would support a one-cent sales tax increase to fund health care reform.
According to the survey, 38% of state residents would oppose such a measure.
The survey included responses from 652 randomly selected California residents. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points (MediaNews/San Jose Mercury News, 10/15).
California and at least a dozen states are considering leasing the lottery to a private group in order to reap billions of dollars in revenue, the New York Times reports.
The governor's plan to partially fund health care reform with proceeds from a 40-year lease of the lottery could generate up to $37 billion in revenue, according to Wall Street analysts.
Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, said the problem with Schwarzenegger's plan "is that it's a one-time infusion of cash when we have an ongoing budget shortfall." She added, "You can only sell an asset once" (Schwartz/Nixon, New York Times, 10/14).
Summaries of an editorial and opinion piece regarding funding options for health care reform in California appear below.
- Sacramento Bee: "If Schwarzenegger, Núñez and Perata were to unite behind a small income tax increase, we are confident they could sell it to the electorate -- especially if voters were convinced it would finance a truly affordable plan for universal health care," a Bee editorial states. "The public gets the concept of 'shared responsibility.' Now it's the politicians' turn to show some courage, and put it into action," the editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 10/14).
- George Skelton, Los Angeles Times: "Nuñez says he'll keep an open mind about leasing the lottery," Skelton writes in his "Capitol Journal" column for the Times, adding that "privately, legislators say the idea's going nowhere." According to Skelton, Schwarzenegger "should use real dollars," not proceeds from a lease of the lottery to raise additional revenue to expand health care (Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 10/15).