By Jon Street | Vermont Watchdog
SHOW ME THE MONEY: Dem. lawmaker demands Gov. Shumlin’s single-payer financing plan
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Green Mountain Care into law three years ago, but he still hasn’t said how he’ll pay for it.
State Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, wants to know where the money is coming from now, not “after the election.”
Browning filed a public records request last week seeking that information.
“The administration has agreed that the cost of this program in additional tax revenue may be up to $2.2 billion, so they need to show a financing plan that can raise that much. They were supposed to show it last January and they didn’t. I want it now,” Browning told Vermont Watchdog.
Browning’s demand for answers comes as Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester, began questioning whether Shumlin has a single-payer financing plan at all.
“The deadlines for proposing financing have been missed two years in a row now, so to me that’s very disappointing. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that there is no financing plan,” Condon said.
As Browning pointed out, the key to Vermont taking any more steps toward a single-payer system is finding a way to pay for it.
“If they have (a financing plan), or the makings of one, let us see it, evaluate it, determine whether it will work either fiscally or politically. If they don’t, then we need to look at alternative paths for health reform that build on what we already have,” Browning said.
While Browning acknowledged it was “political genius” for Shumlin to ask for a commitment to Green Mountain Care without first determining a source of funding, she said it has been a “fiscal disaster.”
DEMANDING ANSWERS: Dem. lawmaker suggests Shumlin could be waiting until “after the election” to introduce single-payer financing
“I think if the governor is going to continue to say, ‘I’m going to do single-payer,’ he has to show us how. And he has to show us how he’s going to build a sustainable, political base to support it. And the longer he doesn’t do that, the more it leads you to think he can’t do it or that he’s actually going to drop the thing later but he’ll wait until after the election,” Browning said.
Shumlin, who is in his second term as governor, is up for re-election this November.
Vermont Republican Party Chair David Sunderland echoed the suggestion that Shumlin is stalling for political reasons in a statement last week.
“The repeated delays are clearly an attempt by this administration to avoid dealing with difficult and controversial issues in election years, and Vermonters deserve more than that from their government,” Sunderland said.
Sunderland’s statement came shortly after the governor declined to answer reporters’ questions about financing Green Mountain Care, which is supposed to be implemented by early 2017.
Vermont Watchdog previously reported the cost for Green Mountain Care — the nation’s first single-payer health insurance plan — could be anywhere from $1.61 billion to $2.22 billion. Those were estimates from an independent report published by Washington, D.C.-based consultants Avalere Health.
So far, lawmakers have introduced two financing options. The first, introduced by Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, would impose a 13 percent payroll tax — 11 percent on employers and 2-percent on employees — and a 10 percent tax on non-wage income. The second bill would phase in single-payer financing beginning in 2015 with a 1.5 percent self-employment tax increase while reserving 7.7 percent of state income taxes for single-payer.
Shumlin’s office has not responded to our request for comment.
Contact Jon Street at firstname.lastname@example.org and find him on Twitter @JonStreet.