Suffolk County on Long Island is on the verge of passing a law to force big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, BJ’s and K-Mart to contribute to their workers’ health coverage. The vote, by the Republican-controlled county legislature, was 17 to 1.

Labor organizers have had retailers like Wal-Mart in their sights, accusing the company and other giant retailers of keeping wages low while not offering health insurance or requiring employees to pay large portions of the premiums. That forces many workers to turn to Medicaid or other county-funded programs in an already overburdened public health care system, said one of the bill’s cosponsors, William J. Lindsay, a Democrat.

Paul J. Tonna, a Republican, said that as a result, “Wal-Mart has profited off the public sector to the tune of billions of dollars.”

The operative word in this Republican-led decision is “Medicaid.”  The county costs of New York’s Medicaid program is a huge issue in state politics and a pet issue of conservatives in particular.  It is nice to see someone from New York, regardless of party, clearly articulating how companies like Wal-Mart are growing fat at taxpayers’ expense.

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