Thursday, February 21, 2008

Boozing For Health Care in Colorado

Chris Barge of the Rocky Mountain News shines a spotlight on a member of the Colorado government who has a radical plan for addressing the cost portion of our national health care crisis:

While the governor and lawmakers said what they would and wouldn't do for health care this year, nobody mentioned Rep. Jerry Frangas.

But the Denver Democrat very quietly drafted a bill [HB 1341] introduced this week that would raise alcohol taxes 2 percent to cover all of Colorado's 180,000 uninsured children.

The tax of 11 cents, for example, on a $5.49 six-pack of Budweiser, would raise about $57 million for the state children's health care program.

When paired with federal matching funds, Frangas said it would provide up to $150 million.
According to Barge's article, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has been engaged in public debate with various lawmakers and special interest groups about the possibility of asking voters to raise taxes. These talks have recently veered away from health care and towards other issues such as education, transportation, and the environment.

Gov. Ritter's spokesperson, Evan Dreyer, said he had not heard about the bill, but did point out the governor's position as being "not inclined to see a health care measure go to the ballot in November." In the meantime, Frangas has spoken with both Colorado Senate President Peter Groff and Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff about his bill, although no public commitment has been made by either at this time.

The real battle, if the bill makes it that far, will occur once the billion dollar liquor industry sees fit to get involved. On one hand, it could well be an instance of using a "luxury tax" to fund health care. On the other hand, it could end up just another case study of government under the influence -- of lobbying groups, that is.

SOURCE: "Booze tax for health care? 2% increase could raise $57 million to cover children " 02/20/08
photo courtesy of yanivba, used under this Creative Commons license

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