Originally posted at www.foxandhoundsdaily.com
By John Severini is the President/CEO, California Travel Association

The Golden State has long been synonymous with tourism. Visitors from all parts of the world travel to California to take advantage of our unparalleled natural scenery and world-class entertainment options. As our state continues to make its way out of a devastating recession that cost us more than one million jobs, the success of the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries will be critical to our economic recovery.

To keep this recovery going, our leaders must invest in California’s economy and in the businesses and employees who keep it afloat. They also need to invest in the health of our workers. Health and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are reliant upon one another. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce, which is why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to strengthen our state – not just physically, but fiscally. But if health care reform is not handled correctly, it could have a profound and negative effect on the tourism industry – one of California’s key economic drivers.

There is no doubt that California’s leaders can meet the requirements of the ACA without causing undue harm to our state’s fiscal health. In fact, I believe that balancing health care reform and economic investment are key to the success of our state. Unfortunately, there currently is legislation that ignores that balance entirely.

AB 880 by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez would require businesses to pay the state hefty additional penalties for every employee who works more than eight hours a week and elects to enroll in Medi-Cal. There are estimates that the cost of these additional penalties could cost up to $15,000 per person. Such legislation will have a chilling impact on the hundreds tourism businesses, hotels, attractions, transportation companies, recreational venues and tourism related organizations that the California Travel Association represents.

If this legislation moves forward, there is no doubt that it would have a devastating effect on the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are directly or indirectly affected by tourists and business travelers. In fact, AB 880 will punish thousands of employers that provide Californians with quality jobs and benefits, including health coverage. What’s more, there are no exceptions for seasonal or temporary workers – which is an essential part of the travel industry.

The travel, tourism and hospitality industry employs more than 950,000 Californians, and is responsible for $100+ billion in direct spending from visitors – not to mention indirect spending and state and local tax revenues resulting from travel. Our industry is a proven and positive force that can drive our  states economic recovery. Our members are already working hard to best implement the ACA that will go into effect next year. Rather than ensuring that the state effectively implements such a major policy change, AB 880 will pile on a new program, new mandates, new bureaucracy, and new additional penalties.

This bill isn’t just detrimental to our members businesses; it will impact those who visit California, as well as local residents who spend time and money enjoying our diverse state.

California’s economy took a nose dive during the recent recession, and we are just beginning to recover. Our state’s long-term prosperity is linked to the revenue brought in by those who visit our many attractions, from the majestic redwoods of northern California to the sunny beaches of San Diego. AB 880 threatens to stifle the travel, tourism and hospitality industry at a time that our leaders should be investing in these key economic drivers.