Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Make them pay their fair share

Journal Inquirer
April 11, 2006

The "Fair Share Health Care" (SB-462) bill in the General Assembly would require retail businesses that employ more than 5,000 in Connecticut to pay at least $2.50 per employee hour in health care. A company that pays less must pay the difference to the state to help pay for health-care programs like "Husky."

Why do we need this bill? Here's why: The average employee cost of a family HMO benefit is $2,600 per year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Wal-Mart (one of only a few companies that would be affected by this bill) employees in Connecticut pay an incredible $9,130 a year — about $170 a week — for a family HMO benefit. Many Wal-Mart employees, who make about $8-$10 an hour, don't take the coverage, needing to spend their money on food, shelter, and clothing. What happens when they need health care? They end up on state programs such as Husky, and guess who pays? Yes, we and the good companies we work for subsidize Wal-Mart employees' health care through taxes.

We who live in the 10th District have reason to be proud. Rep. Henry Genga was one of the early co-sponsors of Fair Share Health Care. He resisted pressure from corporate lobbyists and is doing what he thinks is right for the people of his district. Residents in East Hartford's other districts should be so lucky. Neither Democrats Michael Christ nor Christopher Stone seem to want to support this bill. Maybe they feel that universal health care by the federal government is the way to go, but that's a long way off so states need to do something now. Maybe they're taking the Republican view and saying this bill will drive out jobs. Well, Wal-Mart will not pack up and move to China or Africa. Maybe it's pressure from corporate lobbyists or groups such as the CBIA. Shouldn't they be answering to constituents? There are more Wal-Mart employees than corporate lobbyists living in East Hartford, and they need this bill. Employers who compete with Wal-Mart but make health care affordable to their employees need this bill also, to level the playing field.

If you think this is a good bill and you live in the 1 lth (Christ) or 9th District (Stone), let them know. The bill is at a critical juncture and your support is needed. Hopefully, these moderate Democratic legislators will follow Sen. Gary LeBeau's lead and sup-port this bill, as Henry Genga has.

Dan Durso
East Hartford

The writer is the chapter co-chair of Connecticut Working Families