Baron Hill sent out an email to supporters on Friday, explaining his continued opposition to expanding SCHIP. This was sent in response to the MoveOn action, in which about 25 people showed up at his small Bloomington office over lunch to ask for his support, and more showed up at his office around 5:00pm.
Strangely, it doesn't mention the donations he receives from Big Tobacco, or that Indiana will pay more into the program because, well, we have more smokers.
Full text of the email after the jump...
I understand that some are concerned with my recent vote on the SCHIP expansion. Let me start by saying a few things that I believe will clear up some of the misconceptions about this bill.
First, I know that we all agree about the value of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Expanding children's health insurance is a wonderful goal and the merit of this legislation is not in question. In fact, I have consistently supported the SCHIP program during my previous terms in Congress. And, just last week I voted to reauthorize SCHIP through November 16th of this year. Had we not taken that vote, the program would have expired entirely.
Secondly, this is not a case of children versus tobacco. There is much more complexity to the issue, which I will address in the content of this message to you. Finally, the fact that I voted "no" on this version of this legislation does not mean that I don't fully support an expansion of the program.
That said, I would respectfully ask that you consider my reasons for voting against this version of the SCHIP expansion. As a Member of Congress, who was elected to serve in the best interest of residents of the entire Ninth Congressional District of Indiana, I must look beyond a program's name to what is actually involved in such comprehensive legislation. While funding the children's health insurance program is something I have supported in the past, I cannot support taxing Hoosiers in order to pay for the mismanagement of other states' SCHIP programs. Under the current bill, too much of this federal funding will go primarily to states lacking in their coverage, something Indiana is not.
The State of Indiana has one of the most efficient SCHIP programs in the nation. Unfortunately, this legislation would give a well-performing state, like Indiana, less money than states with wasteful or inefficient SCHIP programs. It is estimated that Indiana would contribute approximately $300 million each year in revenue, and only receive about $50 million toward its SCHIP program. A lot of this money would go to bail out PAST mismanagement in these under-performing states, thus making Indiana a healthcare "donor state."
In sum, Hoosiers, through a 61 cent tobacco tax increase, will pay significantly more into the program than they will get out. The money will go to other states that have not effectively managed their SCHIP programs. I know that Hoosiers are feeling the burden of increased taxes from every angle - the rising price of gasoline and skyrocketing property taxes - and I cannot support another tax for a program that will least benefit Hoosiers. Further, this would be another program in a long line where Indiana does not get its fair share back from the federal government. Whether it is transportation dollars or housing money, Indiana is constantly getting shortchanged on the tax dollars it sends to Washington. This is simply not fair and must stop.
As you know, the President has now vetoed the legislation and there are simply not enough votes in the House of Representatives to override that veto. Because I wholeheartedly support this program, I believe it is absolutely imperative that we come together in the House to create a bill that the President will sign, and one that expands SCHIP in a way that is more equitable to Hoosiers. If we don't, then the children will indeed lose. I consider the SCHIP program an asset to our nation's children, but cannot simply vote for it on name alone.
I was elected to represent all of the constituents of the Ninth Congressional District, and therefore must take all of their concerns into account. That is what I have done in considering how to vote, and I have concluded, regrettably, that this particular proposal is neither equitable nor effective for Hoosier taxpayers or the families needing health coverage -- I think we can do better. Finding this solution will require bold leadership, and I believe that in this case, that leadership is ensuring as many children as possible have the coverage they need when they need it, and as soon as possible. Congressional gridlock will only delay this coverage, and I hope my colleagues in the House will join me in finding a realistic solution to the problem.
I value your opinions and take them into serious consideration when making decisions in Washington. I ask the same of you now: please consider my reasons for voting against this particular bill. Please separate it from my continuous support of the broader SCHIP program. I certainly understand if you still disagree with my decision. All I ask is that you try to understand my reasons. As always, please feel free to contact me or a member of my staff and someone will be happy to further address any concerns you may have.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing you in the district.
The pressure is getting to them. Let's keep it up!
(Crossposted to Blue Indiana.)