How does the proposed “gas tax flip” affect local transportation and how does it fit in to current budget negotiations?
The “gas tax flip” proposed as part of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget would eliminate the sales tax on gas and, instead, increase the excise tax on gas resulting in a 5 cent per gallon price reduction at the gas pump. However, the end result would have a devastating impact on local transit: an estimated $6.5 million annual loss to the Santa Cruz Metro Transit District. This 20 percent decrease to Metro’s budget would require a reduction in the number of bus routes offered, a reduction in the number of Para Cruz shuttles, which transport people with disabilities, and the loss of more than 200 union jobs that include health benefits.
Instead of supporting the governor’s proposal, I am supporting an alternative proposal just passed by the legislature that will maintain public transit funding by eliminating the sales tax on gasoline, increasing the excise tax on gasoline, while at the same time decreasing the excise tax on diesel fuel and increasing the sales tax on diesel fuel. This change will not result in an increase of the price of gasoline or diesel fuel at the pump but will provide a steady stream of funding to transportation, thus prioritizing the importance of supporting local transit districts.
I believe that support for public transit is essential for California to achieve targeted reductions of CO2 emissions (AB 32), relieve traffic congestion, and provide residents with a reliable means of environmentally efficient transportation.
What is the state doing about Anthem Blue Cross raising rates by up to 39 percent, and how does that figure into state and national healthcare reform?
The notification by Anthem Blue Cross that their premiums would be increasing, in some cases increasing by 39 percent, has rightly provoked consumer outrage. I share in the frustration of many Californians over the rising cost of health insurance. In the case of Anthem Blue Cross, what was even more egregious was that customers were informed of these massive premium increases just one month after Anthem’s parent company, WellPoint Inc., recorded an eight-fold increase in profits for the last quarter of 2009.
In response to the public’s outrage, the Assembly Committee on Health held a hearing on Anthem’s planned rate increases on Feb. 24. While some of the questions posed to Anthem were addressed, not enough information was provided and the Committee has subpoenaed Anthem Blue Cross to release information about its California executives’ compensation and internal discussions on premium rate increases. Expect additional hearings in the coming weeks.
Additionally, Assemblymember Dave Jones has introduced Assembly Bill 2578 which would require the Department of Managed Health Care or the Department of Insurance to approve health insurance rate increases.
While the Department of Insurance has convinced Anthem Blue Cross to delay implementation of premium increases until May 1, I fear that some rate increases will occur. Any premium increases, whether it be by Anthem Blue Cross or any other health insurance provider, leaves customers and business owners in the difficult position of having to choose between the high cost of staying insured or risk having no medical coverage at all. No civilized society should have to make this decision.
March is National Women’s History Month. How will achievements made by female Californians and the inequities that still exist between genders be recognized?
The Assembly annually recognizes National Women’s History Month and I am honored to be able to advance and promote the many contributions women have made to our nation’s and communities’ history. Despite the progress and accomplishments made by women, we live in a country where equal pay for equal work still remains a dream and not a reality. I find it abhorrent that despite protective legislation and the fact that women now represent more than 50 percent of the employed workforce in California, the fact that they still receive disparate pay and unequal treatment continues to persist.
Because of this, I am authoring Assembly Joint Resolution 32, which seeks to affirm the California legislature’s commitment to the attainment of gender equity with respect to employment and other civil rights.
As the father of two daughters and the husband of a family practice physician, I am keenly aware of the opportunities and challenges facing women. As a feminist, I am also keenly aware of the responsibility of men to support equality for women in the home and in the workplace, and
I continue to work every day to help achieve this goal.