After nearly 10 months in office, Mayor Ed Lee signed his first veto order Tuesday evening on legislation that would have amended five-year-old health care legislation.
The mayor vetoed an amendment to Healthy SF, which was approved by the supervisors Oct. 18, stating the legislation “neither improves access to health care services nor does it protect jobs.”
Under Healthy SF, employers must spend a certain amount on health coverage per employee hour. Some join health insurance plans or pay directly into a city-administered plan. But 860 other employers — most of which are restaurants — put money in what is known as a health reimbursement account. And if their employees don’t use the money during the year, that money then returns to the company.
The legislation, introduced by Supervisor David Campos, was intended to prevent the unused money from returning to the company; instead it would accrue and be used for future health care.
A recent city study found 80 percent, or $50.1 million, set aside in these accounts went back to employers and was not spent on employees’ health.
Business advocates had said jobs would be lost and businesses could even close if they were forced to take the $50 million annual hit.
In his veto letter, Lee said he supports a consensus approach after speaking with the small business community, organized labor and health care professionals.
Lee said he introduced legislation that would address his goals of creating jobs and increase access to health care. He also mentioned a legislation introduced by Supervisor David Chiu, which counters Campos’ bill, that would require employers to keep a year’s worth of medical contributions instead of accumulating the funds year after year.
Overriding a mayoral veto takes eight votes from supervisors. The legislation was passed 6-5 last week.