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Does Gavin Newsom Support The Legislature’s Single-Payer Health Care Bill? It’s Complicated.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

This is the final installment in a series of Capital Public Radio interviews with the prominent candidates for California governor. You can find all the interviews here.

Click the LISTEN button above to listen to the interview.


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s faced criticism in the California governor’s race over his stance on single-payer health care, says he backs the bill that stalled in the state Legislature last year — but not in its current form.

“I would not accept as-is 562,” Newsom said of Senate Bill 562 in a recent interview with Capital Public Radio. “But I accept its principles of moving in a completely new direction as it relates to addressing the crisis that is health care.”

The measure passed the California Senate last year but was held in the Assembly, where Speaker Anthony Rendon called it “woefully incomplete” because it did not lay out a funding source for its estimated $400 billion cost.

Newsom’s Democratic rivals in the governor’s race have argued that he tells some audiences he backs the bill but is less supportive in other settings.

Asked directly in the interview if he supports SB 562, he replied: “No, I haven’t supported it without amendments, and I’ve been crystal clear about that.”

Newsom said he recognized some of the hurdles the bill faces — for example, it would require both changes to the California Constitution and Trump administration approval. But he said even the bill’s most fervent backers, such as the California Nurses Association, have acknowledged it would require amendments before final passage.

“I believe we can achieve it,” he said. “But I’m not naive about it. And I’m not naive about the limitations that are currently in 562.”

Asked how he’d pay for single-payer, Newsom reframed the question as one of transition — a matter of shifting the hundreds of billions of dollars currently spent on health care in California in the public and private sectors to a new system.

As mayor, Newsom signed an ordinance creating Healthy San Francisco, a program that provided universal health care access to city residents. It made San Francisco the only city in the nation to offer such a program, although it’s not single-payer, and as PolitiFact California noted in an article last year, it’s not exactly insurance, either.

Asked if he would accept statewide universal health care that was not single-payer — which is the goal of several bills currently in the Legislature — Newsom left the door open.

“Universal health care is ultimately the goal, and how we achieve it, I’m not ideological about it. Do I believe that a single-payer financing framework is the most cost-effective way of achieving it? I do. Long believed that.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Newsom called for an overhaul of California’s tax system to broaden the state’s sales tax base to include services and address the volatility of its income tax revenue.

He argued that California’s current income, sales and corporate tax structures are not competitive with other states.

But Newsom did not commit to a revenue-neutral overhaul. “I’m not gonna prescribe any parameters,” he said. “What I want to do is begin anew with an open mind, not an ideological prism to engage in tax conversation.”

Asked if he would make the same “no new taxes without voter approval” pledge that current Gov. Jerry Brown made in the 2010 campaign, Newsom replied: “Yeah, I’m for tax reform, and no new massive tax reform without the support of the people of this state.”

Newsom also defended his record as lieutenant governor after the Los Angeles Times reported on his spotty attendance at meetings of the University of California Board of Regents, California State University Board of Trustees, and State Lands Commission.

“On all the tough votes, the votes where they needed me, and tuition votes, and the votes that were critical, we were there, and we were engaged,” he said.

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