Senate passes hospital tax bill after bitter fight

The so-called hospital “sick tax” was on life-support Thursday when it reached the floor of the Georgia Senate.

By the end of the day, after hours of debate, delays, backroom politics and hurt feelings, the Senate approved HB 307, which would impose a hospital tax to help fill a $600 million gap in Medicaid funding.

The 1.45 percent tax on patient revenue could raise about $170 million.

The bill, with three amendments attached, passed 31-15.

The key to the bill was a last minute amendment that gives a tax cut to insurers on health insurance premiums when the state’s revenue shortfall reserve is funded at the level of $500 million.

But Gov. Sonny Perdue, while praising the bipartisan bill the House passed last week, lashed out at the Senate for trying to “curry favor with a Washington, D.C., special interest group” by adding the amendment “that triggers yet another provision contingent on the first signs of economic growth.”

“Georgia has maintained its coveted AAA bond rating through these difficult economic times with responsible fiscal management.  The unpredictable revenue impact of these provisions should not be added to a bill of this magnitude,” Perdue said.

The Senate Republicans, who desperately wanted the bill, scrambled all day to get the required number of votes needed to pass the controversial bill. The GOP, which has basically gotten every bill it has wanted passed this year passed with its strong majority, apparently started the day without enough votes.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the president of the Senate, stopped the session twice to allow for backroom caucusing.

Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to bully their members into voting in favor of the bill.

On the Republican side, there were strong whispers that Judson Hill of Marietta was stripped of his Reapportionment and Redistricting chairmanship over a potential no vote. Hill was not in the chamber at all during any of the votes and was marked excused. He was one of 10 senators who skipped the vote completely.

There was also talk that Senate Republican Whip Mitch Seabaugh of Sharpsburg quit his position. He voted no on the bill and offered a no comment afterwards. Three Republicans voted against the bill.

“Today, we have broken twice so we can meet. I can tell you what [the Democrats] didn’t do. We didn’t threaten anybody. We didn’t take anybody’s job,” said Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). “Anybody that would lay down and let some of these tactics make their decision is somebody I don’t know. And I know many of you. You are better than that.”

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock, who authored the last amendment that helped carry the bill, confirmed that his caucus fought bitterly amongst themselves, but denied that there were any threats.

“I rarely see permanent ill-will, “ Rogers said. “There will be tempers anytime you deal with issues this volatile. And Mitch Seabaugh is still the whip.”

At least three Democrats broke ranks and voted for the bill – Freddie Sims of Dawson, Ed Harbison of Columbus and Ronald Ramsey of Lithonia.

“They put a lot of pressure on Democrats,” said Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown of Macon. “You have the majority party having to hunt down Democrats to raise taxes. When you are talking about education policy and not cutting education, you can’t find us.”

Harbison, Sims and Ramsey left the chamber before they could comment.

Brown said he didn’t know what made them vote with the Republicans.

“You have to ask the ones who voted for it what they got,” Brown said.

With the Senate’s passage of the bill it now goes back over to the House, because of the three amendments. It’s failure, however, could have brought the 2010 legislative session to its knees and force major changes in an already shaky budget process.

“We have mandates on education. We have mandates on the courts, but we don’t have to do this. We believe we have to take care of the least in our society,” said Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) during the debate. “We that have ought to give to those that don’t. If we don’t pass this bill, the governor will have to cut provider rates.”

In the middle of all of the debate was Grady Hospital. Supporters of the bill argued that the major benefactor of the bill would be the Atlanta hospital. The money raised from the bill would be distributed among all of hospitals and the ones that provided the most care to the indigent would get more funding.

Grady, they say, stands to gain more than any other hospital in the state.

But Atlanta Democrat Vincent Fort, a long time supporter of Grady, said supporters of the bill who speak of Grady are being hypocritical.

“Grady hospital, for those who want this bill, has become a lobbying point,” said Fort, adding that over the years, deep financial cuts to Grady has caused the hospital to suffer.

He said that Grady annually runs on a “$20-$40 million deficit.”

“The states cuts are (equal) to the operating deficits at Grady. These folks have cut, cut and cut to the bone,” Fort said. “Some of the people who are promoting that position are the ones who have put my hospital in the ditch. You tell me to save Grady with one hand and on the other hand you cut Grady.”

31 comments Add your comment

JL

April 1st, 2010
8:41 pm

Just because I’m to sick to donate to you, doesn’t mean that you have to penalize me.

[...] a rumor going around the Capitol today during the debate over HB 307: Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to bully their members [...]

[...] Update 2: On the Republican side, there were strong whispers that Judson Hill of Marietta was stripped of his Reapportionment and Redistricting chairmanship over a potential no vote. Hill was not in the chamber at all during any of the votes and was marked excused. [...]

Rodney S.

April 1st, 2010
10:59 pm

More taxes is never the right answer. This is just a temporary fix for what is destined to be a long-term problem. Like hospital bills aren’t high enough already!

Road Scholar

April 2nd, 2010
6:44 am

Only 3 Democratic votes makes it bipartisan?

Karl Marx

April 2nd, 2010
6:47 am

Republicans? No they are not, they are RINOS. Vote them out. NO NEW TAXES

pete

April 2nd, 2010
8:17 am

Blame it on the grand old pu.pa. vote them out

pete

April 2nd, 2010
8:22 am

To all of you dems, get your buns in gear or you will not have a job.You need to start now.

Antiobama

April 2nd, 2010
8:48 am

“Today, we have broken twice so we can meet. I can tell you what [the Democrats] didn’t do. We didn’t threaten anybody. We didn’t take anybody’s job,” said Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). “Anybody that would lay down and let some of these tactics make their decision is somebody I don’t know. And I know many of you. You are better than that.”

BS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What exactly do you think democrats did in Washington to get the health care bill passed??????????

You liberal democrats are no better than anybody else nothing but a bunch of liars.

Morrus

April 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

Sick&Tired

April 2nd, 2010
9:07 am

Whatever happened to just SAY NO TO TAXING? or NO NEW TAXES? I’m starting to enjoy watching the republicans on a daily basis.

My laugh for the day is: the new word for tax is “user fee”. : )

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Grayson Daughters, Andrew W. Jones. Andrew W. Jones said: bit.ly/1h1mv4 Senate passes hospital tax bill after bitter fight: On the Republican side, there were strong whispe… http://bit.ly/958jve [...]

Vernon Jones Stole My Lunch Money

April 2nd, 2010
9:43 am

Huh? What’s all this talk about bullying. I thought Georgia just passed anti-bullying legislation.

Jim Harris

April 2nd, 2010
9:57 am

Austin Scott voted against the tax bill.

http://WWW.SCOTTFORGA.COM

The Cynical White Boy

April 2nd, 2010
11:16 am

Better get used to this drama unfolding – over and over again.

The formula is: DEMOCRATS + CREATE BIG PROGRAMS + NO MONEY + SEND TO STATES AND LET THEM WORRY ABOUT IT = DRAMA IN THE STATE HOUSES.

And, of course, you have – ironically – Dems like St. Vincent who then acuse Repubs of hypocrisy because they dare to struggle to cope with the unfunded mandates handed down by his party.

ATLcitizen

April 2nd, 2010
1:15 pm

Sonny Perdue, Casy Cagle, Chip Rogers, and all of you who voted for this bill: YOU RAISED TAXES! Don’t think you can stick it to the hospitals for GA’s budget deficit when all of you have been mismanaging the budget all along with these Hall of Fames all over the state for your cronies that eat up millions and other nonsense like that, and get away with it. You should have gone with a cigarette tax. None of you people will be welcome in my office. Hope you don’t get sick. Wait until next election!

Ronald Cheney

April 2nd, 2010
1:59 pm

Cynical White boy is an idiot. YOUR Republican party gave tax breaks to oil companies (lost revenue in case you don’t understand), run up the national debt more than any other admin. in history, lose jobs for 8 years straight, start a war for fun ( I guess the Iraqi Oil money ought to start coming any day now, right?) and generally put the entire county in the ditch, and you think this all Obama’s fault? You need to shut the F up! What an IDIOT!!!

[...] Georgia senate passes hospital tax bill after bitter fight The so-called hospital “sick tax” was on life-support Thursday when it reached the floor of the Georgia Senate. By the end of the day, after hours of debate, delays, backroom politics and hurt feelings, the Senate approved HB 307, which would impose a hospital tax to help fill a $600 million gap in Medicaid funding. The 1.45 percent tax on patient revenue could raise about $170 million. The bill, with three amendments attached, passed 31-15. (Atlanta Journal Constitution) [...]

James

April 2nd, 2010
9:05 pm

It’s the “Sonny Reach-around”

Health care bill bad. Taxing hospitals considering the Federal dollars soon to be incoming, good!

[...] More here: Senate passes hospital tax bill after bitter fight | Gold Dome Live [...]

Willis

April 3rd, 2010
8:03 am

Why don’t the Repugniks allow alcohol beverage sales in grocery stores on Sunday? The additional tax money would help, but NOOOOo, they all want to stay “pure” and teach better time management to ordinary people.

News Update – April 5, 2010

April 5th, 2010
9:51 am

[...] A hospital tax passed 31 to 15 in Georgia. [...]

REASON

April 5th, 2010
9:58 am

It’s amazing how free politicians in Atlanta or Washington are with our money. I don’t think we pay them to decide, it’s more like to advice.
Loyalty to their party is not the way it support to be, they must think for themselves, serving the people should be No.1, not number two.

Annie Ethel

April 5th, 2010
11:00 am

Does anyone have confirmation as to the final roster of senate chairs and senate leadership? I’ve got to find some vehicles for bills that will hopefully keep us out of the appellate courts.

blazer6768@bellsouth.net

April 5th, 2010
7:04 pm

Ronald Cheney, someday you will have to face the fact that your own party bombed Iraq and enforced the no fly zone and all but one democrat said Saddam had WMD. You will also have to face the fact that yes Bush inflated the deficit by 1.5 trillion dollars in 8 years, Obama has raised it another 2.5 in 1 year——these are facts ! you can ignore them if you like but they are still facts.

Now to show my bipartisanship—- VOTE OUT ALL REPUBLICAN INCUMBANTS they are not true republicans and should not be allowed to act like the national democratic party did by forcing higher taxes on it’s struggling citizens. Did I read this right ? the tax on us will have a mandatory tax exemptions for insurance companies after a fixed monetary level is reached ?

Georgia Republicans—the new democratic party

VOTE CONSTITUTION OR TEA PARTY !!!

Alex

April 5th, 2010
10:15 pm

Senator Chip Rogers is an idiot. He is only concerned about looking pretty for Anti-Tax Organizations and getting endorsements in a bid for Lt. Governor when Casey’s back (yuck, yuck) starts acting up again!!! Neither are capable of leading!

whatsupwiththewhatsup

April 6th, 2010
9:18 am

I love how everyone thinks they know everything……plain and simple BIG GOVERNMENT IS A BAD THING!!! What is so funny is that what the Republicans did in GA the Democrats did in Washington DC so right now all of you that are pointing fingers at each other saying you, you, you should really just point at yourselves and tell yourself to shut up and find something else to be interested in because politics is just something you don’t understand. Those who think Democrats are the right party and those that think the Republicans are the right party are both mistaken. Anyone who thinks a politician doesn’t have a hidden agenda is a fool. People wake up and start thinking for yourself.

jovan

April 21st, 2010
11:04 am

Atlanta and Columbia are MUCH worse than DC. There are career pols in all three locales, but it is the worst in SC and GA.

Bush had no job growth — gross or net — in his eight years, whereas Obama has had gross job growth, but net job loss in his two years because of the conservative obstructionism in BOTH PARTIES, the GOP and the DINOs.

Government that aims to control women’s wombs is FAR WORSE than government that wants people to get health insurance. There is a major difference. Anti-choice government is 100% authoritarian on its face, while Obama’s government is left leaning populist (populists, by definition, do NOT support free markets).

I know that you will be seeing this from Milledgeville to Atlanta just like I will be seeing this in Williston, S.C. — a 30-second commercial that some conservative candidate airs that claims that he/she is for ‘less government’. Don’t buy into the conservatives’ nonsense! The fact and the matter is that conservatives are for MORE GOVERNMENT intrusion into our lives. I know this because I saw it firsthand for the eight years that Bush was in power. DeMint, Isakson, Coburn and the other conservatives passed some of the most intrusive laws in our nation’s history between 2003-2006.

Social liberals are for less government. However, the group of liberals in DC have been acting like conservatives lately and that is why they are being attacked like they are. We need social liberals in all forms of government, because they are the only ones who care about our Constitution. Vote ONLY for hippies, Greens, and other social liberals in 2010. Vote out ALL big government conservatives and DINOs from public office.

indian matura sex

July 16th, 2010
6:13 pm

It was extremely interesting for me to read this blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that site soon.

David Smith

latin female models

July 24th, 2010
4:12 am

I would like to read more on that site soon. By the way, rather nice design that site has, but don’t you think it should be changed once in a few months?

Charlotte William

cute brunette girls

July 27th, 2010
3:36 am

Pretty nice place you’ve got here. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Avril Kuree