As expected, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, himself the beneficiary of Wal-Mart political contributions, vetoed a bill yesterday that would have required companies like Wal-Mart to spend at least 8% of its payroll on health benefits for its workers, or pay the difference into a Maryland fund. The legislation was filed in part as a response to Wal-Mart freeloading off the public taxpayers as its workers line up for Medicaid health insurance benefits. “We are here to enthusiastically veto a bad piece of public policy,” Ehrlich told the media at a news conference in Princess Anne, where Wal-Mart hopes to build a huge distribution center. “The reason we are vetoing this bill is that it threatens the economic health of this terrific county.” Protesters among the crowd were not allowed by the police to carry signs or raise their voices, so all they could do was turn their backs on the Governor as he spoke. As reported earlier by Sprawl-Busters, the Maryland General Assembly knew the Governor would veto The Fair Share Health Care Act. The bill applies to any companies with more than 10,000 workers. The bill also would force nonprofit organizations of the same size to spend at least 6% of their payroll on health care costs. According to the Associated Press, a Wal-Mart spokesman stood by the Republican Governor’s side when he announced the veto, and told the media, “We are so grateful to the governor for doing what is right and drawing a line and vetoing this bill.” The Maryland General Assembly now has the chance to override Ehrlich’s veto, which would be a major political defeat for Wal-Mart, and likely stimulate similar legislation in other states. Wal-Mart claims that it already spends between 7% and 8% of its payroll on health benefits. “It is not about the numbers,” Wal-Mart noted. “Next time around it might be a different number. It might not be 10,000 employees, it might be 200. Then you are talking about a very different scenario that involves everyone in the business community, not just Wal-Mart. It is a very dangerous position to take.” The United Food & Commercial workers responded to the expected veto by saying, “Today everyone in Maryland is going to realize the governor and Wal-Mart chose each other over doing the right thing. This legislation was about doing the right thing. It’s outrageous that they believe Maryland taxpayers should foot the cost of Wal-Mart health care.”
For our earlier story on the Maryland bill, search this Newsflash page by “Maryland.” To read stories about how Wal-Mart workers are topping the list of corporate employees enrolled in state Medicaid programs, search Newsflash by “Medicaid” or go to www.goodjobsfirst.org. Wal-Mart workers and their dependents are costing state and federal taxpayers millions of dollars in health care welfare, a cost that Wal-Mart passes on to the public as a hidden cost, rather than buidling it into the price of their cheap underwear.