Happy New Year! It's 2012 — an election year. The 2012 legislative sweepstakes begin tomorrow when lawmakers descend on Montpelier for the opening of the session, but several bills are already waiting in the queue.
As promised, Republican candidate for governor and state Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) has drafted legislation to force the Shumlin administration's hand on what could become a key issue in the 2012 campaign: how to pay for health care reform.
Brock (pictured) is sponsoring legislation, S.163, that would move up the due date for Gov. Peter Shumlin's recommendations for financing Green Mountain Care, the name for Vermont's universal health care experiment, from January 15, 2013 to September 15 of this year.
Just in time for campaign season.
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, a group opposed to single-payer health care, has been circulating an online petition called "How Much Will It Cost? Who Will Pay?" demanding a September 2012 release of the financing plan.
Brock's legislation asserts that, "The public has a right to hear and understand the proposed financing plans in advance of the November 2012 election, in which the future direction of Vermont's health care planning is likely to be a major issue for debate."
In today's Burlington Free Press, Shumlin tells reporter Terri Hallenbeck the delay is not at all political. It's logistical.
"If I could have had this ready for next month, I would be there," Shumlin tells the Freeps.
But as VT Digger (or one of its commenters) has pointed out, at least one Democratic lawmaker (a doctor, no less) says the basics of the financing model could be easily worked out sooner than 2013.
"The delays are not necessary but are political in nature," state Rep. George Tiller Till (D-Jericho) said last fall in a Vermont Medical Society newsletter. "The exact price tag can't be known, but that is always true in state budgeting. That is why we do a budget adjustment bill every single year.
"However, what part of the new system will be financed through payroll tax, what part through income tax, what part through new and expanded consumption taxes, what other funding sources will be included does not require waiting until 2013," Tiller Till continued. "The delay causes unnecessary uncertainty which neither businesses nor physicians like."
While it's doubtful that Brock's bill will go anywhere in the Democrat-dominated legislature, it should at least make for some entertaining election-year theater.