California ‘Wal-Mart’ Bill Vetoed

Published November 1, 2006

Among the bills vetoed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in September was a plan to impose a Maryland-style “Wal-Mart law” on large retailers.

S.B. 1414, sponsored by state Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), would have forced employers with more than 10,000 workers statewide to spend at least 8 percent of total wages on their health benefits or pay a penalty of approximately the same dollar amount to the state.

In July, a federal court struck down Maryland’s Wal-Mart law–so named because Wal-Mart was the only private-sector employer in the state with more than 10,000 workers. California has 69 such corporations.

“This bill does nothing to address the health care challenges we face,” Schwarzenegger said in his September 13 veto message. “Singling out large employers and requiring them to spend an arbitrary amount on health care does nothing to lower costs or guarantee that even one more person has health care coverage.”

‘Mixed Signals’

Migden disagreed. “Try telling that to the 40,000 Wal-Mart employees that would have received real health care benefits,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle on September 14.

John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute, a public policy research group in San Francisco, said Schwarzenegger “sends mixed signals on health policy.”

“By vetoing the job-killing Wal-Mart bill, as well S.B. 840, he’s delivered a one-two punch against more state intervention,” Graham said. “However, he still has to explain how his prescription drug price control plan and uncritically increased spending on government health programs achieve his goal of a health system controlled by patients rather than politicians.”

Karla Dial ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.

For more information …

“‘Wal-Mart Law’ Overturned in Maryland,” by Charlotte LoBuono, Health Care News, September 1, 2006,