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Make all employers pay their fair share


LARGE AND small business owners across Maryland are disappointed that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed the Fair Share Health Care Act, the bill that would have required businesses with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care. It was supported by 78 percent of Maryland voters, including 65 percent of Republicans, because it is good public policy and good for Maryland business.

Like the majority of businesses, we offer health care coverage for our employees. But we are tired of subsidizing large corporations that don't do their fair share.

Under Maryland's hospital system, if an uninsured person cannot pay for needed treatment, which happens often, all of our insurance premiums are increased to pay for that person's hospitalization. So when a large corporation doesn't do its fair share, our insurance premiums subsidize the hospitalization of that company's uninsured workers.

Also, when large corporations pay low wages, many of their uninsured workers and their children become eligible for state health care programs such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Program. A study in Georgia showed that many thousands of Wal-Mart employees were receiving health care under the state's Medicaid program.

It only makes sense that we require companies with more than 10,000 employees, which can surely afford to offer health coverage, to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care. Nationally, according to the U.S. Labor Department, companies with more than 500 employees spend an average of 7.3 percent on health care. Most large companies spend much more than this on health care, such as Giant Food, which spends over 20 percent.

When he vetoed the Wal-Mart bill, as it was more commonly known, Mr. Ehrlich suggested that it would threaten the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center on the Eastern Shore. But Wal-Mart apparently plans to stay. The Sun reported June 4 that "Wal-Mart continues with plans in Somerset." The Montgomery Gazette reported May 20 that Somerset County officials said that Wal-Mart has "given the county no indication that the company would pull out as a result of the Wal-Mart bill passing."

This is not surprising since the state is providing Wal-Mart with more than $2 million in subsidies and tax incentives to build the center, according to state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. Middleton, a Charles County Democrat.

Many of us small business people find ourselves competing directly with large corporations that get incentives from the state and then force us to subsidize the health care of their employees through the hospital system and our taxes. This is not fair.

That's why the Fair Share Health Care Act is good not only for Maryland's home-grown small businesses but also for attracting large- and medium-size businesses that offer health care coverage. They will want to come to a state where they don't have to subsidize their competitors that do not pay their share of health care costs.

We hope the General Assembly will take the side of the businesses that do the right thing by overriding the veto in January and making Fair Share Health Care a reality in Maryland.

Mark Derbyshire is vice president of a moving and storage company in Aberdeen. Brian England is president of an auto care company in Columbia. Janna Naylor is president of a hardware, sales and contracting company in Oakland.

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