Health-care hypotheticals abound as special session begins

Public schools could wind up as one of the big winners if the governor and legislative leaders can come to an agreement on a health-care overhaul.
Under one of the proposals being discussed at the Capitol, schools could secure as much as $2.2 billion as part of a health-care deal.

The scenario is based on a big hypothetical, but is by no means out of the realm of possibility. Here’s how it would work: Among the options being looked at to fund a health-care expansion would be a one-cent increase in the state sales tax. But under Proposition 98, 40 percent of that sales-tax revenue would go directly to schools.

So, even though the sales-tax hike would generate about $5.5 billion, according to estimates from the legislative-analyst office, only $3.1 billion would be available to use for health care.

But would that 40 percent be enough for the powerful California Teachers Association? The CTA has been looking at a possible sales-tax increase of their own for the 2008 or 2010 ballot. They have been engaged in talks with the California Business Properties Association to try to craft a measure that would increase sales taxes to provide more money for schools.

CTA has been supportive of efforts to expand health-care coverage in the past, even though most of their members already have health coverage.

“They kicked in a couple of million dollars to [support] Prop 72,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer group Health Access, who ran the campaign to preserve 2004’s health-care law. “They believe in moving the ball forward on health care. I think they have some very core concerns about not only education, but about health care. Their concerns are probably similar to the concerns other AFL unions might have.”

Meanwhile, health-care-policy negotiators must simultaneously be looking toward the political realities of a November 2008 ballot initiative. In a Capitol press conference this week, Speaker Fabian N

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