Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hopeful step for health care

Senate Labor considers measure expanding KidCare

Sen. Mike Massie’s children’s health insurance bill, Senate File 39, will be considered Wednesday in the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee - assuming poor weather does not shut down the Capitol. The hearing begins at 8 a.m.

The ESPC sees this measure as part of a “building block” plan for achieving health insurance for all Americans by using existing private and public group health insurance. The Building Blocks framework allows many insured people to continue as they are, but creates more options for small business and individuals.

One of the key building blocks in Wyoming is the KidCare CHIP program. Wyoming KidCare Chip is a public-private partnership providing health insurance coverage for children through age 18 living in households with too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to purchase health insurance.

Senate File 39 bill extends eligibility for the program to children in Wyoming families who have incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level. Eligibility currently is restricted to children in families whose income does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level. The bill also extends coverage to parents of qualifying children, though that number is limited.

The bill contains an appropriation of $390,000 to fund the FY2010 expansion. The fiscal note on the bill foresees spending about $1.2 million in 2011 and about $2.1 million in 2012 for a maximum of 3,720 enrollees.

You can read the ESPC description of the bill here.

Like Lazarus, the Speaker’s property tax bill rises

After being killed on Friday, January 23rd, HB 87 rose from the dead on Monday the 26th, when sponsor and House Speaker Colin Simpson asked the Revenue Committee to hear it again on the grounds he hadn't been there to present the bill Jan. 23.

Speaker Simpson came to the Friday committee meeting but had to leave; the bill was presented by Sen. Eli Bebout, a co-sponsor, who was at the committee meeting for another bill. Four members of the House Revenue Committee -- Reps. Amy Edmonds (R-H12, Cheyenne), David Miller (R-H55, Riverton), Owen Petersen (R-H19, Mountain View) and Mark Semlek (R-H1, Moorcroft) -- changed their Jan. 23 No votes to Yes on Monday.

Thus the 3-6 tally from last Friday became a 7-2 majority in favor of the bill. It was re-referred to Appropriations, where it will be heard on Wednesday along with the homestead exemption bill (HB 68).

The ESPC has urged members of the House Appropriations Committee to consider the options for property tax relief carefully. As supporters of responsible fiscal policy, legislators must take care to protect the state’s revenue sources. And a broad base of resources means that the state will be less susceptible to pressure from the state’s biggest taxpayers: the minerals extraction industry.

Wyoming residents already receive government programs and services worth far more than they pay for through property and sales taxes. It’s appropriate that we benefit now from the mineral bounty the state enjoys.

But it also is important to recognize the link between tax investments and good schools, roads, business-ready communities, and needed social services. Moreover, Wyoming residents pay lower taxes on their property than residents of other states. Any legitimate concerns with the residential valuation process should be addressed there and not indirectly through tax rates.

If the Appropriations Committee desires to forward a property tax reduction bill, the ESPC favors bringing out HB 68, the homestead exemption, for two simple reasons: (1) the fiscal impact is dealt with up front; and (2) the tax reduction is tilted toward lower-value homes, whose occupants are more likely to be suffering in the current economic downturn.

Neither argument holds true for HB 87. It enacts a permanent property tax reduction without regard for future economic conditions. It includes provisions to protect local government for only one year, after which the revenue losses will affect local governments significantly. It provides the same percentage reduction to all homeowners, even those not facing economic difficulties.

1 comment:

Gururaj said...

Children's health is as important as the health of any adult. In this regard, Child health insurance bill is an important milestone
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