Texas might encourage violating Obamacare with tax breaks
The tax break would be the same amount as the federal fine that companies are required to pay for violating the Affordable Health Care Act, or the total amount that companies pay in state taxes.
Freshman state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) introduced the bill in the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday in an attempt to protest the implementation of what critics refer to as “Obamacare”. The health care legislation requires company health insurance plans to fully cover employees’ contraception costs – including emergency contraception like the morning-after pill.
The contraception mandate has faced opposition from employers who are morally, religiously, or otherwise opposed to the use and funding of birth control. Stickland, a Christian Republican from Bedford, is a fierce opponent of the contraception mandate and introduced the bill to financially “protect” religious-based businesses from the fines involved in violating Obamacare.
A business that violates the Affordable Care Act faces a $100 penalty fine per employee per day, which could easily cost large companies millions of dollars.
“It is simply appalling that any business owner should have to choose between violating their religious convictions and watching their business be strangled by the strong arm of Federal mandates and taxation,” Strickland said in a statement discussing his measure, House Bill 649.
“When a business is being stressed nearly to the point of bankruptcy by punitive federal taxes, of course the state should give them relief,” he added.
Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based business with a chain of 525 stores, is one of the largest companies to file a lawsuit over the provision of the new federal health care law. Federal judges have dismissed the suit, but if the company refuses to abide by the law’s provisions, it would face up to $1.3 million per day in fines.
“The Obama administration’s mandate and their threats to bury Hobby Lobby with $1.3 million per day in tax penalties aren’t just unconstitutional, they’re unconscionable,” Strickland said.
The state legislator said that his bill is “very Republican” and very “pro-life, pro-religious freedom”. Republicans hold a majority in the Texas Legislature. They hold a 63 percent majority in the House and a 61 percent in the Senate. But even though a number of other legislators are likely to agree with Stickland’s views on the contraception mandate, it is possible that they will vote against his bill for the sake of the state economy.
With large corporations eligible for massive tax breaks, the government would face a loss of revenue that could reduce the state’s prosperity. Texas legislators have already argued that they don’t have enough money to fund public education or Medicare and make health care accessible to uninsured Texans, and providing massive tax credits would further limit their financial abilities.