California public health measure pushed to 2024

A ballot initiative that would have raised taxes on wealthy Californians to fund pandemic prevention and public health programs will appear on the 2024 ballot.

Max Henderson, the startup investor who led efforts, told California Healthline they delayed the measure, because concerns about COVID-19 are being crowded out by economic pressures.

“Our goal was to capture people’s acute attention on the pandemic to get something done — but there are economic problems and it looks like we’re headed for a recession, so things got more complicated,” Henderson said. “People are expressing rising skepticism over higher taxes, and the economy is dominating the hearts and minds of the electorate.”

California hospitals were so overwhelmed at the height of the pandemic that naval ships were berthed in Los Angeles to deal with the overflow.

Bloomberg News

Supporters said they intentionally missed the July 30 deadline to make the November ballot, delaying submitting the 1 million signatures until July 1, hoping for more momentum in 2024.

The initiative would add a 0.75% tax on income over $5 million and was expected to generate from $500 million to $1.5 billion annually over 10 years. The money would have been spent to create the California Institute for Pandemic Prevention to award grants for research and development of technologies to detect and prevent future pandemics; the majority going for public health programs for pandemic preparedness and improvements to school facilities to limit disease transmission.

The measure had the support of health advocates, but not Gov. Gavin Newsom. Lawmakers approved $300 million annually in the budget signed by Newsom July 1 to help support the state’s public health system.

The measure would have competed with another income tax that qualified for the ballot, the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act, which adds a 1.75% tax on income over $2 million and is expected to raise $100 billion over 20 years to reduce wildfire risk and support a transition to electric cars.

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