Soapbox

Bipartisanship produced a good fix for health tax

Jennifer Kent, director of the Department of Health Care Services, answers questions on a bill to restructure California’s health-plan taxes during a legislative hearing on Feb. 10.
Jennifer Kent, director of the Department of Health Care Services, answers questions on a bill to restructure California’s health-plan taxes during a legislative hearing on Feb. 10. Associated Press

Monday, the Legislature passed a major financing reform package for health care plans. While this is a very complex issue, the bottom line is simple: It was good for Californians.

In short, the new financing plan will result in $100 million in savings to the health care marketplace, which means that California consumers will see lower costs. Additionally, it allows us to receive $1.3 billion in federal money that will be used to assist those with developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy, and to keep open more than 50 skilled-nursing facilities. We will also be able to pay down more than $400 million in state retiree health care and transportation debt.

This is a positive outcome, and the bipartisan process that crafted the reform plan is also significant.

In 2014, the federal government told California that we must change the way that we tax and fund health care. Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session of the Legislature to address the issue. He initially proposed a $650 million tax increase that would have negatively affected 24 million Californians.

Assembly Republicans recognized the need to fix the problem but did not believe that such a tax increase was necessary. We rejected Brown’s proposal but committed to finding a workable alternative. We encouraged the governor and the state’s health plans to return to the negotiating table.

It was important to Assembly Republicans that no additional costs be passed along to consumers or businesses. Negotiating in good faith, we drafted a plan to meet the needs of all stakeholders. Wanting to ensure that we got it right, we asked the health plans, the California Chamber of Commerce and taxpayer groups to review it.

The Chamber of Commerce opined that the plan constituted a “comprehensive solution that is a win-win for California.” The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association noted that “the tax reductions … represent far better tax policy than the expansive tax increases” of previous plans. These responses echoed those of other stakeholders that the plan serves Californians well and does not raise taxes.

Building consensus took time and required more work from all parties. This paid off in the final product. Even more, it shows what can be done when bipartisan resolve exists to get things done. This is what Californians expect and deserve from their government.

With this issue resolved, it’s time to turn the page and move on to the next challenge. Assembly Republicans are prepared to engage and get it done.

Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley is Assembly Republican leader. He can be contacted at Assemblymember.mayes@assembly.ca.gov.

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