Healthy Debates on the Ballot

As I covered a few weeks ago, Massachusetts is voting on whether to repeal the state income tax. What I didn't mention? The vote ...
by | November 1, 2008
 

As I covered a few weeks ago, Massachusetts is voting on whether to repeal the state income tax. What I didn't mention? The vote has major implications for Massachusetts' (near) universal health care experiment. Every state program will be in question if the measure passes and, if it's actually eliminated, it's hard to imagine Massachusetts' experiment surviving.

That's not the only place where health care is on the ballot -- either directly or indirectly. Here are three others, which I've added to the ballot measure guide.

State: Arizona

Issue: Prop. 101, which would forbid the state from mandating that individuals have health insurance or restricting individuals' choices of private health care plans.

Analysis: The idea of Prop. 101 is to launch a preemptive strike against a Massachusetts-style individual mandate -- a requirement that everyone obtain health insurance. Many conservatives favor the measure. It even earned a ringing endorsement from George Will. Gov. Janet Napolitano is the leading opponent, but, somewhat surprisingly, she's been joined by the state Chamber of Commerce. They argue that the law would have costly unintended consequences (for Medicaid patients, for example) and lead to protracted legal battles.

State: Maine

Issue: Question 1, which would repeal a tax on soda, wine and malt beverages.

Analysis: This mundane-sounding measure is actually about a lot more than the cost of 7-Up. To plug a hole in the budget of Dirigo, the state effort at universal health insurance, the legislature approved this tax earlier this year. It was a party line vote -- Democrats in favor, Republican against. Under the "People's Veto" in Maine, voters will get the final say. This is one of the top political issues in state. Republican are using the beverage tax in legislative campaigns. Gov. John Baldacci is trying to preserve the tax (and the 18-17 Democratic edge in the state senate). While repealing the tax wouldn't necessarily kill Dirigo, it would put the program's future in doubt.

State: Montana

Issue: I-155, which would set aside an estimated $22 million to expand eligibility under the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Analysis: Everyone favors health insurance for children. Voters in conservative states such as Montana tend to be mistrustful of government-provided health insurance. So, which instinct wins out? Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who's coasting to reelection, recently came out in favor of I-155.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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