After Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted last night that "when the Senate finishes its deliberations" it will approve the healthcare reform bill passed by the Assembly in December, I asked Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Sheila Kuehl if she concurred with that assessment.
Kuehl declined to make a prediction on the ultimate outcome in the Senate, but she offered this assurance about what her committee will do with the bill: "We're going to have the world's longest hearing on it. The bill is 200 pages, and after we're through no one is going to able to say they didn't know what was in the bill."
Ventura County's other state senator, Republican Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks, reacted even more strongly to Schwarzenegger's appeal for support of the $13 billion healthcare overhaul.
"I'm very disappointed in the governor's speech," McClintock said. "Out of one side of his mouth he promises spending restraint, and out of the other he promises the most expensive social program in the history of this -- or any other -- state along with the biggest tax increase in the history of this -- or any other -- state. That's not sound public policy. That's flimflammery and that's what got us into this mess."
Kuehl, the state's leading proponent of a single-payer healthcare system, says she does not intend to vote for the bill, which would provide near-universal health coverage through an expansion of public programs and reliance on the private insurance market.
The Health Committee has a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday, but that could be put back a week if Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill has not completed her study on the fiscal implications of the measure on future state budgets.