In 2008, three Georgia congressmen – Phil Gingrey, Lynn Westmoreland and John Linder – tied for first in the National Journal’s ranking of most conservative U.S. House members.
But the National Journal’s 2010 rankings, just out this morning, indicate our Republican crew may be mellowing:
Unlike Dems, GOPers get to fete a clear winner in the most-conservative sweepstakes: This year, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) takes the prize. He’s closely followed by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Tom Coburn (R-OK). In the House, Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) share the prize.
Nary a Georgian in the crowd.
Overlooked in all the hoopla over Carol Porter entering the Democratic race for lieutenant governor is this from Larry Peterson of the Savannah Morning News:
State Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond will be the keynote speaker at the local Democrats’ major annual fundraiser on March 4….
He has not said whether he will run for re-election or – as many think he might – for lieutenant governor. There has been speculation that Thurmond will use the local party event, the Toby Buttimer Awards dinner, to reveal his intentions.
All five Democratic candidates for governor will be at the event.
Not too long ago, a janitor pushed an empty trash bin into one of the state Capitol’s elevators. He looked at a reporter, put on a deadpan face, and said, “It’s the state budget.”
With that in mind, state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) has begun a hard sell of HB 39, his bill to hike the cigarette tax by a dollar. Here’s a peek at an op-ed piece he’s written for the weekend newspapers:
Right now Georgia’s 37-cents a pack cigarette tax generates about $237 million a year, but we spend $537 million a year treating smoking-related illnesses in Medicaid patients alone. That means Georgia’s taxpayers are subsidizing the medical costs for the smokers among us to the tune of $300 million a year.
Per household, Georgians are contributing $550 a year to cover the smoking-related medical costs for the state’s Medicaid patients. Raising the cigarette tax by a buck a pack would generate at least $350 million and put the burden where it needs to be – on the smokers themselves….
Beyond tax equity and healthcare issues is the fact, of course, that Georgia is facing unprecedented budget challenges. The General Assembly is struggling now to plug a $1.1 billion hole in the state budget. The “buck a pack” tax increase on cigarettes would attract an estimated $1 billion in new federal health care funds, giving us much-needed flexibility in other areas of the budget.
Without new revenue, we’re facing truly draconian budget choices. Do we really want to lay off state patrol officers, fire prison guards and reduce the number of school days so that we can maintain Georgia’s reputation as one of the cheapest cigarette markets in the nation? Is that more important than, for instance, rebuilding a public health system that is already suffering from more than a 30 percent vacancy rate and is inadequate to handle responsibilities that range from checking diabetes and hypertension to responding to disease epidemics and terrorist attacks?
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.