Schwarzenegger Opens Door To Tax Hike – If Voters Support It
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Tuesday said he would support a general tax increase to help finance health care reform if voters approve the move, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The governor said, "I always like (and) feel comfortable with the idea that we do the funding mechanism through the people, through a ballot initiative."
With Republican lawmakers opposed to new taxes, a tax to help fund an overhaul of the state health care system would depend on voter approval.
Schwarzenegger in the past has opposed raising taxes but said, "I never close the door on anything."
The California Restaurant Association has proposed a 1% sales tax increase to help fund health care reform.
The governor said that the proposal "wasn't our idea" but added that it is "very important that we look at all the different ideas that come from the outside and within the administration, and then you put everything on the table in our discussions" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 9/18).
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday endorsed Schwarzenegger's proposal to require employers to spend at least 4% of payroll on health care coverage, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
David Fleming, chair of the chamber, said, "We need a plan that will cover everyone in California, but it shouldn't be a plan that's funded solely by business." He added, "It should be a plan that's funded by everybody in this state, all the interests" (Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/17).
The Northern San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Chamber also have endorsed the governor's proposed business contributions, according to administration officials (Sacramento Bee, 9/18).
Fleming said a health care reform bill (AB 8) by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) would place an unfair burden on businesses (Los Angeles Daily News, 9/17).
The Democrats' proposal would require employers to spend at least 7.5% of payroll on coverage.
Schwarzenegger last week said he would veto the measure and called a special legislative session to seek a compromise on health care reform (California Healthline, 9/12).
Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's communications director, said the chamber's endorsement "showed that there is a tremendous amount of right-of-center support for health care reform ... and that this is not just a Democratic issue, that Republicans care about health care" (Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18).
Núñez said, however, "It's great to see the Los Angeles chamber step up to the plate in support of health care reform, but I remain concerned that Republican opposition to the governor's two-thirds vote proposal in the regular legislative session will still be an obstacle in the current special session" (Los Angeles Daily News, 9/17).
Schwarzenegger said he hopes that an agreement can be reached soon, but added that "the reality of it is a little different because there's so many stakeholders out there, there's so many different people that we want to include" (Sacramento Bee, 9/18).
Political observers contend that the outcome of health care reform negotiations in California will have a strong impact on prospects for a national overhaul of the health care system, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "California is a pacesetter for the country." He added that if the state achieves health care reform, "[i]t becomes a major phenomenon for consideration at the national level, and it would have a profound impact on the political process in Washington" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18).
"The critics of health care reform in California are right about one thing: The cost of expanding coverage to the uninsured -- up to $12 billion -- isn't cheap," a San Jose Mercury News editorial states. "But the devastating impact of inaction is higher," according to the editorial.
"California just can't afford to wait another year to address its health care crisis," the editorial concludes (San Jose Mercury News, 9/18).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Tuesday reported on the endorsement. The segment includes comments from:
- Fleming; and
- Schwarzenegger (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/18).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.