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Nation in brief: Health bill deal called vote-buying

Sun., Jan. 10, 2010

Washington – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said concessions made to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson to win his vote on the health care overhaul bill were a “rip-off” for his state and is urging California lawmakers to vote against it.

In an interview airing today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Schwarzenegger said giving extra Medicaid benefits to Nebraska to secure Nelson’s vote, critical to Senate passage of the measure, was “like buying a vote.” In Sacramento, he says, “it is illegal to do that, to buy votes.”

Schwarzenegger was one of the few Republicans to express support for health care reform, but last week protested the deal that gave Nebraska more Medicaid money but not other states.

Nelson said he is asking the Democratic leadership to extend to all states the extra Medicaid money Nebraska would receive under the bill. The House and Senate are negotiating the final version.

Lesbian lawmaker is surrogate mom

Salt Lake City – Rep. Christine Johnson will serve an additional role when the Utah Legislature convenes this month. The lesbian lawmaker announced she’s a surrogate mother, carrying a baby for two gay men.

Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, said she decided to become artificially impregnated with sperm from one of the men after the two close friends expressed frustration over the difficulty of adopting a child.

Utah law prohibits unmarried couples from adopting and does not recognize gay marriage.

Johnson, 41, who has a 17-year-old daughter from a two-year marriage, is four months pregnant and expecting on June 21.

“I can very much empathize with their desire to become parents and share their lives with and open their hearts to a child,” Johnson told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m immeasurably grateful to be a mother.”

Johnson offered to be a surrogate at no cost to save the Salt Lake County men the prohibitive cost of hiring one – as much as $100,000.

The men, who were married in California when gay marriage was legal, will pick up the medical costs.

Boeing expecting tax deals on plant

North Charleston, S.C. – Boeing has released some information about the tax breaks it is expecting to get as part of the deal to put its $750 million airplane assembly plant in South Carolina, a newspaper reported Saturday.

No dollar amounts were disclosed, but Boeing said Friday it would pay Charleston County 4 percent on its real and personal property for 30 years, the same rate as for an owner-occupied home, according to the Post and Courier of Charleston.

Industrial taxpayers are typically assessed at 10.5 percent, but a spokeswoman for the manufacturer said the deal wasn’t uncommon.

“These terms and conditions are commonly seen on significant development projects,” said Candy Eslinger, spokeswoman for Boeing Charleston.

The amount will be fixed under a so-called fee-in-lieu of tax arrangement, a common motivation for businesses expanding to South Carolina. Boeing also said it would be eligible for tax credits equal to half of its total fee-in-lieu payments. That money would be rebated back to the company during the first 15 years to pay for site improvements at its Charleston International Airport campus.


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