WITH JORDANNA THIGPEN
Hale and Hearty: The Mayor's Health Care Proposal
By Jordanna Thigpen
June 23, 2006
Recently Mayor Newsom and Supervisor Ammiano proposed
a comprehensive Health Access Program to eliminate the problem
of the uninsured San Franciscan. This plan has evolved from an
initial proposal by Supervisor Ammiano, to a task force jointly
convened by Mayor Newsom and Supervisor Ammiano to examine the
issue, to its current incarnation to an almost-completed proposal
to drastically change the debate about health care in this country.
The Mayor's leadership in this regard has been the most important
force. The Mayor is willing to ask how we can break new ground
on the single most important issue for our generation(s), and
ask "What is our highest duty?" That question has framed
All details of the plan have essentially been solved, with the
exception of a $38m gap.
The business community is being asked to fill that gap, specifically
by way of a fee imposed on businesses with 20 or more employees.
The 20-employee threshold would apply regardless of the full or
part time status of employees.
While there are other problems with the plan as it applies to
the business community, this feature of the plan is the single
most problematic. It would effectively destroy the City's part-time
job market. Many part-time jobs would be eliminated, as employers
scramble to get below the 20-employee threshold.
Some argue that now everyone will be working full-time, instead
of part-time. However, some individuals can't work full-time -
because of high school, college, graduate school, disability,
or family responsibilities.
Like a lot of kids, I put myself through college working two
part-time jobs at a time in the restaurant business, and I know
several people in San Francisco who are doing the same. Thousands
of those jobs would be eliminated.
The plan would particularly hurt the City's treasured restaurant
industry. The higher minimum wage is a good thing for employees
and for the City, but it hit a lot of restaurants particularly
hard, especially in the absence of a tip exemption as other governments
included in similar measures.
San Francisco businesses already struggle under the weight of
the highest fees anywhere in the State. A year-old study demonstrated
that San Francisco's revenues from fees and permits is $342.9m
to San Jose's $199.8m. Taxes and fees comprise 1/3 of a cup of
coffee, or 64 cents.
$38m sounds extraordinary. But the City can close the gap on
its own, and does not need to ask the business community for yet
another fee contribution, especially one which, like the payroll
tax, will discourage employment. Perhaps we can add another $100
to the city's business registration fee. This could raise at least
$8m - and the other $30m can come from existing revenue sources.
This year's budget can also include a set-aside for a consultant
to work with the Treasurer's and the Controller's offices to provide
a comprehensive analysis of the City's business community, large
and small. This analysis can form the basis for future discussions
regarding the business community.
It's what we would do, as business owners - gather information,
and then make an informed decision.
A hearing on the joint proposal will occur on Monday, June 26
at 8 AM in the Board of Supervisors' Chambers. What role will
the business community play in our shared future? What role will
you play in shaping the dialogue?
District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small
business owner and President of the San Francisco Small Business
Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get
to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at email@example.com.