- Special to The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2012

Obamacare doesn’t go far enough. The government needs to replace private insurance companies in a complete takeover of health care.

That’s the system California’s union leaders are pressuring Democrats to create, now that they enjoy supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature. And their influence is “tremendous,” according to former Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who served as Senate majority leader from 2001 to 2008.

“California Teachers Association’s former president referred to them as the fourth, co-equal branch of government,” she said. “Nobody has the political and money war chest that they do.”

And they seem eager to use it.

Along with proposals to eliminate private insurance companies, raise taxes on everything from oil to luxury cars and remove barriers to higher property taxes, California’s powerful public-sector unions want the state to spend $68 billion on a bullet train and increase public pension payouts to consume almost 20 percent of local budgets.

Willie L. Pelote Sr., California political director of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said he meets with state lawmakers regularly.

“I don’t miss an opportunity,” he said. “I meet with them, they spend an hour in my office, a lot of them come back.”

AFSCME has given $26,303,148 to the California Democratic Party since 2003, according to FollowTheMoney.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Helena, Mont. And Ms. Romero said its generosity will likely not go unnoticed by the Legislature.

“I think there will be sort of the toll that is paid the political gatekeeper, which is — take your top political donors, especially public sector unions — going to be a checklist of hey, have you been naughty or nice?”

Another union likely to find itself on the “nice list” is the California Federation of Teachers. According to FollowTheMoney.org, the union has contributed $16,147,479 to the California Democratic Party since 2003. And President John Pechthalt said he has a lot of ideas for how to cash it in.

For one, Mr. Pechthalt said he would like to see the legislature take the lead on a Medicare-for-all proposition, akin to the national health care systems of Britain or Canada.

“We want to take insurance companies out of the equation,” he said. “If you take the insurance companies out of the equation, you still have private companies and doctors who still get paid … just reimbursed directly from the state.”

In other words, this model adds medical professionals to the state’s payroll, and “the health care system is paid for with a tax,” he said, adding that the union would lobby for other tax increases, such as a new extraction tax on oil companies.

Mr. Pelote said the key to generating revenue is increasing taxes on corporations and luxury purchases.

“Huge corporations in this state … they get every kind of massive write-off you can imagine,” Mr. Pelote said. “Everybody [should be] paying their fair share, you shouldn’t be exempted from being a responsible citizen.”

Story Continues →