May I have the envelope, please? And now - the dumbest bill of the year is ... S.88. Let's give a big hand to its author, Sen. Doug Racine. What's S.88?
S.88 is Sen. Racine's bill to create a government run single payer health care system for Vermont.
But we don't have $2 billion dollars to make that thing work.
That's true. So Sen. Racine set aside his original bill and produced a new one, that directs the Health Care Reform Commission the Democrats created four years ago to do a big new study to develop three different varieties of socialized medicine that next year's legislature can choose from. The senator asked for $400,000 to pay for it.
Isn't the state facing a $154 million budget deficit this coming year, and almost $700 million more over the following three years? Hundreds of state positions have gone unfilled. Obamacare will saddle our taxpayers with at least $6.8 million in new state spending in the next fiscal year.
We don't know how we are going to pay for the state mental hospital. The two state-managed retirement funds have an unfunded liability of $1,053 million, plus $879 million more in unfunded post employment benefits. So Sen. Racine wants us to spend $400,000 to study socialized medicine?
The Senate Appropriations committee, taking note of these financial problems, agreed to spend only $250,000 on this study. But that's Sen. Racine's plan.
But haven't we studied government run health care plans before?
Of course. In 1992 the legislature, urged on by Sen. Racine, snatched $900,000 from an insurance reserve fund and gave it to a new Health Care Authority. Its main task was to develop a single payer plan and something called a regulated multiplayer plan, by the end of 1993.
So what happened?
The Authority produced its two plans. Sen. Racine denounced the single payer version as worthless. Gov. Dean denounced the multipayer plan as worthless. A year's work of study was wasted. A couple of years later the Authority was mercifully abolished.
Has anything been done since then?
In 2006 the Democrats created a Health Care Reform Commission and told it to do much the same thing. It hired Prof. Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University to produce a new plan.
What happened to that one?
Nothing, but Prof. Thorpe got paid for his services.
So why does Sen. Racine want to spend money we don't have to march down this dismal road again?
Sen. Racine wants to win the ardent support of the "health care for all" single payer activists, so he can win the Democratic primary for Governor next August.
Suppose the legislature bought into this, and the new study produced yet another socialized medicine scheme. When could that go into effect?
Why 2017, seven years out?
Because Obamacare says a state can't adopt any health care plan not approved by the federal government until 2017.
If this scheme is as stupid as it sounds, won't Gov. Douglas veto it?
When the Democrats tried to do this in 2005, he vetoed it, because he could find no justification for spending tax dollars on a study to justify "the millions of dollars in decisions the Legislature has already made, actions it has already taken, and decisions it appears destined to make." The Democrats didn't even try to override that veto. This time he says the legislature can charge the cost of the study to its own account, even though nothing will come of it and it's a waste of money.
Won't taxpayers and voters have a fit about Sen. Racine's gambit to win primary votes by wasting another quarter million bucks to concoct another nutty socialized medicine scheme that couldn't be done until 2017 in any case?
Yes, and that's a major reason why Sen. Racine's bill won this award.
Writer John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).