Will Voters Get To Decide How To Fund Health Reform?
It's starting to look like at least some part of the effort to overhaul California's health care system will be left to voters in the form of a ballot measure next year.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) said that AB 8, which he co-authored with Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), would provide 75% of the funds to cover the 6.7 million uninsured California residents. He hinted that a ballot measure could ask voters to approve the remaining 25% of funding, and the California Retailers Association, California Restaurant Association and California Small Business Association are pushing for a ballot initiative that would increase the sales tax by one cent to help pay for health care reform.
Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines (R-Clovis) predicts that voters would reject a tax increase to fund health care reform, but the record is mixed on Californians' amenability to higher taxes in the name of health care.
Voters in 2006 defeated Proposition 86, a measure that would have added a $2.60 tax per pack of cigarettes to fund various health-related programs, including children's health insurance. However, in 2004, voters approved Proposition 63 to fund mental health services by raising the state income tax by 1% on high-income workers.
Most notable among recent health care ballot measures, California voters in 2004 voted to repeal a 2003 law that would have required certain businesses to provide health coverage to employees or pay a fee to the state. Some of the main supporters of the repeal -- Gov. Schwarzenegger and the restaurant association -- are backing health care reform this year.
As speculation about a ballot initiative swirled, the Legislature took action on other bills, including a measure to revise eligibility guidelines for the California Children's Service program and legislation to extend Medi-Cal eligibility for certain workers with disabilities.