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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. late last week vetoed the Fair Share Health Care Bill, which would have made Wal-Mart spend more on employee health benefits in the state, according to published reports. Ehrlich said the legislation would have kept other businesses from considering expansion in Maryland.
The Republican governor, accompanied by Wal-Mart U.S. c.o.o. Eduardo Castro-Wright, signed the veto at a ceremony in rural Somerset County, a high-unemployment area where a slated Wal-Mart distribution center could provide jobs for up to 1,000 people. Before the ceremony, Castro-Wright said the company could rethink its plan if Maryland's General Assembly overrides the veto when the state legislature reconvenes in January. The predominantly Democratic body passed the bill last month.
The legislation, popularly known as the "Wal-Mart Bill," would have required for-profit companies with over 10,000 employees to spend 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits or on Maryland's health program for the poor. Wal-Mart is the only company operating in the state that would have been affected by the law.
Prominent Democrats, health care advocates, and labor leaders have criticized the governor's stance against the bill. "Gov. Ehrlich should be ashamed for literally standing with big corporate interests rather than Maryland's working families," AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney said in a statement.
According to Castro-Wright, Wal-Mart already spends 7 percent to 8 percent on of its payroll on health care benefits.
Wal-Mart contends that the legislation is discriminatory in the way it singles out the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer. The law is backed by regional supermarket company Giant and Washington-area UFCW Local 440.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey are currently considering similar legislation.