Talk about a "sunset" clause. Some of us may not see the sun set 20 years from now when another county board will no doubt ask voters to extend it again, or possibly increase the tax. As in 2004, Measure AA will take a two-thirds supermajority vote to extend the tax. By scheduling the vote now, the board would have time to ask again in 2016 to prevent the tax from ending two years later.
We supported the healthcare tax in 2004 and are doing so again. This tax has generated approximately $100 million per year in revenue since it was imposed — funds that have been earmarked for improving healthcare services in the county.
The revenue is divided, with 75% automatically given to the Alameda County Medical Center (Highland Hospital and John George Psychiatric Hospital) and the remaining 25% allocated to healthcare service providers by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors based on need and merit. Axis Community Health in Pleasanton is one of these where Measure AA funds are absolutely critical to its ability to meet the ever growing healthcare needs of the Tri-Valley.
Measure A funds have allowed Alameda County to increase its support to community clinics for direct services as well as for some capital projects. Over the past decade, Axis has received approximately $400,000 in capital support, which has assisted it in implementing electronic health records and improving clinical spaces. With respect to direct services, Measure A funds have boosted the amount clinics receive to provide medical care for low income/uninsured county residents.
Even the funds that go to Highland and John George hospitals are of enormous value to Axis, which doesn't offer the same services and has been able to refer patients there for specialty and inpatient services. Renewal of Measure A is critical to Axis and other similar community health centers if they are to continue serving patients via the county contract (known as HealthPAC).
Specifically, Measure AA will help maintain or keep open trauma and emergency services throughout Alameda County, pediatric emergency services at Children's Hospital, essential primary care, preventative care and mental health services, basic primary care for underprivileged and uninsured children and families, and will allow these clinics and hospitals to retain qualified and experienced nurses and healthcare professionals.
Measure AA will keep local hospitals open and will provide accessible and affordable primary and preventative care to treat patients before their illnesses become more serious and the cost of treatment more expensive. It's a frugal and carefully crafted plan to address the most essential healthcare needs of Pleasanton and other Tri-Valley residents who use and need these services.
Opponents of Measure AA, like those who opposed Measure A 10 years ago, argue that a sales tax is the worst kind of tax out there, that it's an extremely regressive flat tax, hurting the low income and senior citizens the most. Unarguably, sales taxes are less fair than progressive income taxes that rise with earnings.
But this tax is better because it's focused, is directed to a specific fund and helps the low income and senior citizens much more than general taxes that must pass through the slippery slopes of politically tainted agencies and budget czars before reaching these same folks in need.
Measure AA requires an independent oversight committee to ensure the funds are well-spent, with online budget and spending reports that make these decisions transparent. It will preserve essential healthcare services and the safety net of hospitals and clinics that deliver healthcare to all residents in Pleasanton, the Tri-Valley and Alameda County. We urge readers to vote Yes on Measure AA.