Say what you will about Grover Norquist — and I know many of you have had plenty to say about him in the past, none of it good. But I don’t think there’s any question his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, is right about one particular element of its statement regarding Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to have the Department of Community Health, rather than the Legislature, decide whether to continue imposing the hospital bed tax (or “hospital provider fee,” in the current Georgia political vernacular).
Here’s the statement, obtained by my AJC news-side colleagues. I’ve put the seemingly unobjectionable part in bold-face:
Gov. Deal’s decision to shift taxing authority from the legislature to the Department of Community Health does nothing to improve the hospital bed tax. Instead, it is a step in the wrong direction, attempting to absolve the governor and legislature of any potential blame for the looming tax increase.
The hospital bed tax remains a job-killing tax hike that will increase the cost of health care for Georgians and drive up the national debt. Thankfully, many Georgia legislators have taken a stand against the bed tax; Americans for Tax Reform applauds their resolve in the face of silly gimmicks on behalf of tax-and-spend special interests.
Now, you can believe the bed tax is needed, or you can believe it isn’t. You can applaud Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge or consider it the root of all evil in American politics. But I don’t know how you can disagree with Norquist that Georgia’s Republican lawmakers are trying to pass the buck by giving authority to levy the tax/fee to the DCH board.
If our legislators believe they have no option to balance the budget other than levying the bed tax, that the budget can no longer be cut and tax increases are necessary, then let them come out and say that and defend it — and stop talking about “cutting government” in all their election campaigns.
If they think it is right to make this tax, pitched three years ago as a temporary solution during an abnormally sharp recession and budget crunch, into a permanent tax — which is exactly what it would become once the Legislature no longer had to vote on it periodically — let them make that argument.
Otherwise, I think it would be appropriate for Norquist’s group to rate a vote or gubernatorial signature for the pass-the-buck bill as a vote or signature for a tax hike. And then Georgia’s voters can use that information to decide if their lawmakers did the right thing, which is all the ATR pledge is supposed to do anyway.
– By Kyle Wingfield