State Residents Approve Ballot Measures To Increase Taxes for Specific Purposes, Including Health Care
Voters in Tuesday's election "showed their willingness to approve ballot measures that call for higher taxes to fund more government spending," including several health-related initiatives in California, the Washington Post reports (Reid/Nieves, Washington Post, 11/4).
State residents voted to pass Proposition 71, a bond measure that will issue raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research; Proposition 61, which provides $750 million to pay for construction, expansion and equipment for children's hospitals and will cost about $1.5 billion over 30 years; and Proposition 63, which will increase the state income tax by 1% for residents earning more than $1 million a year to fund mental health services. Voters rejected Proposition 67, a measure that would have added tax on telephone bills to raise money for emergency medical services. California residents also voted to repeal a law (SB 2) that would have required some employers to provide health insurance to employees or pay in to a fund to provide such coverage.
The outcome of the health-related ballot measures led some experts to conclude that "piecemeal improvements may well be the only politically palatable way to address California's large number of uninsured people and skyrocketing costs," the Los Angeles Times reports.
The repeal of SB 2 "showed the difficulty of enacting broad reforms," although the measure "fared better" than previous ballot initiatives to require employers to provide health insurance and to establish a single-payer health care system, according to the Times. About 49.1% of state voters supported upholding SB 2.
E. Richard Brown, director of University of California-Los Angeles' Center for Health Policy Research, said that such a margin indicates that providing health insurance to lower-income residents "remains an issue of really high concern to California voters."
State residents voted to support measures that "allot more money to narrowly targeted health care programs" and those that "put off" paying for the measure or "le[ave] it to someone else" to pay, the Times reports (Rau/Halper, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
For example, voters' approval of Proposition 63 in comparison with the repeal of SB 2 showed that state residents "were willing to tax millionaires to expand public mental health services but were not inclined to require businesses to provide basic health coverage for workers," according to the Sacramento Bee. "Proposition 63 reaches into the pockets of 25,000 to 30,000 Californians, while Proposition 72, backed by unions, medical and consumer groups, would have affected many more businesses," the Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 11/4).
Legislating by ballot initiative is "inherently crude" and "underscores the profound sickness eating away at how we make law," Michael Hiltzik writes in his Los Angeles Times "Golden State" column. According to Hiltzik, major corporations and investment firms spent $198 million in "six-, seven- and even eight-figure slabs" to support or oppose initiatives on the statewide ballot.
Hiltzik writes that the effect of repealing SB 2 and passing Proposition 71 is "likely to undermine the public welfare." Hiltzik concludes, "[N]o one should be misled into thinking that the initiative process any longer resembles what it once was -- a way for average citizens to get big government off their backs" because in its place, "big business has saddled up" (Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
Additional information on propositions 61, 63, 67, 71 and 72 is available online.