Alexander: “We’ve Had Enough Washington Takeovers”

Says Kennedy Health Care Bill Would Add Costs to States, Could Bring 10 Percent State Income Tax to Tennessee

Posted on June 23, 2009

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today made the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the health care debate currently underway in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, of which he is a member: • “Senators agree on about 80 percent of what needs to be done in health care, but one of the areas where we don’t agree is on cost. Another one is whether a so-called government-run insurance option will lead to a Washington takeover of health care. Many of us feel that we’ve had enough Washington takeovers: our banks, our insurance companies, our student loans, our car companies, and now health care would be too much. That’s not the best way to extend coverage to low-income Americans who need it.” • “Let me mention an aspect of cost which is often overlooked. Federal debt is certainly a problem, but as a former governor, I care about the state debt and state taxes, too. States don’t have printing presses. They have to balance their budgets. So if we do something up there that adds costs to states, they either have to raise taxes or cut some programs . . . The Medicaid program in the Kennedy bill that we’re considering would increase Medicaid eligibility by up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which sounds good until you take a look at the cost. In Tennessee alone, if the state had to pay just its share of the requirement—about one-third—that would add $600 million to its budget.” • “Every senator who votes for such an increase in costs upon the states ought to be sentenced to go home and serve as governor of his or her home state for eight years to figure out how to pay for and manage the program. $1.2 billion in the State of Tennessee would mean about a 10 percent income tax on the people of Tennessee—right now, we don’t have an income tax, so that would be a new 10 percent income tax. One of my goals in this debate is to make sure that we don’t get carried away up here with good-sounding ideas and impose huge unfunded mandates on the states, which we’re not supposed to do according to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.” A full transcript of Alexander’s remarks is available upon request.