Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is accusing his Republican gubernatorial rival, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, of playing petty politics with the state budget.
Oxendine is pointing the finger at Cagle over the Senate’s decision to take away his agency’s $1.86 million consumer services division.
Oxendine and Cagle are both running in 2010 to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue. Cagle is the Senate’s president. Oxendine said the Georgia Senate’s decision to transfer his consumer services division to another agency is more about gubernatorial politics than smart fiscal management.
“Obviously they (Cagle backers) are concerned,” Oxendine said. “Politics is politics, but government should not be about that.
“It’s one thing for people to have different opinions. It’s another thing to say your personal ambition is so important that you’re willing to hurt Georgia families.”
The transfer of the 33-employee division to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs is included in the fiscal 2010 budget plan the Senate will approve Wednesday.
Oxendine has used the successes of his consumer services division, which handles complaints about insurance companies, during previous campaigns. The stories of some of the people his office has helped have wound up in campaign ads. Oxendine claims the division has recovered $200 million for consumers from companies over the past decade.
Of Cagle, Oxendine said, “There is no doubt in my mind he personally ordered this.”
Jaillene Hunter, Cagle’s spokeswoman, didn’t directly address the accusation. But she said,”The Senate Appropriations Committee identified numerous areas where the state could find further efficiencies and we applaud their effort to cut back on spending.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), said, “ The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs offers similar services and this is simply another way we found to consolidate duplicate efforts across state government.”
Under the Senate plan, the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs would receive an additional $1.6 million to handle insurance calls, about $200,000 less than Oxendine’s office currently spends.