California · Health

Single-payer plan comes up short on votes as political liabilities stack up for Calif. Dems

Progressive hopes of a $356 billion single-payer health care system to rule California will remain just that after a do-or-die Monday deadline came and went without a floor vote in the California State Assembly.

Asm. Ash Kalra (D–San Jose) withdrew the bill from floor consideration on Wednesday following a two year fight for consideration.

Due to California’s two-year bill rules, Monday was the final day the bill could be considered if it did not clear the Assembly floor.

The bill set a hurried tone in the lower chamber, with back-to-back speedy committee hearings in the Assembly Health and Appropriations Committees.

In advancing the AB1400 out of the Appropriations Committee and to the Assembly floor, an amendment was attached requiring its approval to be linked to the approval of ACA11, its funding mechanism.

The proposed tax hike-via-constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature, a tall task even with a Democratic supermajority.

Kalra admitted as much on Monday afternoon.

“It became clear that we did not have the votes necessary for passage, and I decided the best course of action is to not put AB 1400 for a vote today,” Kalra said.

Had it been approved, the bill would establish a new health care system, dubbed “CalCare.” Through ACA 11, Californians would have been taxed more than $163 billion annually including:

  • Annual excise taxes on businesses with $2 million income of 2.3%
  • Payroll taxes for employers with 50 or more resident employees of 1.25%
  • For workers earning more than $49,000 a 1% payroll taxes
  • Personal income taxes for those earning $149,509 or over

The bill posed considerable political liabilities for members of the Democratic Caucus in the Assembly, many who are charting new political ventures in 2022.

Among them locally? Moderate Democrats Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) and Adam Gray (D–Merced).

Both are running for Congress in 2022, with Salas challenging Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) in the southern San Joaquin Valley and Gray running in an open north Valley seat.

Neither Salas nor Gray have public statements on their views related to the measure.

The powerful California Nurses Association, a major union player in Sacramento advocating for the single-payer system, excoriated lawmakers for folding on the bill.

“Today, elected leaders in California had the opportunity to put patients first and set an example for the whole country by passing AB 1400, the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act, in the State Assembly,” the union said in a statement. “Instead, Assembly Member Ash Kalra, the main author of the bill, chose not to hold a vote on this bill at all, providing cover for those who would have been forced to go on the record about where they stand on guaranteed health care for all people in California.”

Republicans in the Legislature celebrated the defeat of a so-called “job killer” bill that would have delivered considerable upheaval to California’s health care system.

Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) took to Twitter to spike the ball on the now-dead bill, pointing to comments made on Sunday about the hefty healthcare proposal.

“This bill was fiscally irresponsible, unsustainable, and was not functional. Worse, it would have caused more harm,” Asm. Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield), the vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

“Common sense prevailed.”

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.