Flip a coin: In the midst of a tea party revolt, a vote on a tax increase for trauma care

There are certain rules of polite society that Momma made us learn by rote.

When spitting in front of company, use a paper cup. If you have to wear a pair of underwear more than once, turn it inside out.

And never, ever pitch a tax increase during the apex of a tea party-driven, anti-government convulsion. That was her big one.

And yet, on the first Tuesday of November, we will have just that — a statewide referendum to approve a $10 surcharge on your annual auto tag fee.

Why? Because in certain areas of Georgia, many visited frequently by you, your spouse and your precious offspring, emergency medical care is so scarce that your chance of surviving a major accident has dipped to 50-50.

Flip a coin — live or die.

With 8 million vehicles in Georgia, the levy could raise $80 million a year to fund a network of 16 trauma centers within reach of most of the state — and offset the high cost of medical specialists constantly required to be on hand or on call.

The campaign for Amendment 2 began last week with a 30-second TV spot and a punch-to-the-gut narrative: Car wrecks. Mother pulled free. Daughter placed in ambulance. Half-way down the road, the ambulance lights go out and the siren goes silent.

“Too far to go. Not enough time,” says the narrator.

The new ad is the work of the business-backed group Yes 2 Save Lives, headed by George Israel, former president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a real quality-of-life issue for Georgia — 700 lives per year that are being needlessly lost,” Israel said. “The key is having neurosurgeons within an hour of an accident.”

When it comes to emergency medical care, some areas of the state are more abandoned than others, but the I-75 corridor below Macon is the loneliest.

“When you leave Bibb County, there’s not a single, solitary neurosurgeon even answering calls until you get to the Florida border,” Israel said — a thought that should add boatloads of excitement to that next trip to Disney World.

Supporters of Amendment 2 are fully aware of the climate. Even if Israel and his friends hit their fund-raising target of $5 million, their own polling says the vote will be exceedingly close.

“It is not going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be tough,” Israel said.

Anti-tax groups already have declared their opposition to Amendment 2 — though it’s not clear how hard they intend to fight it.

Early this spring, Virginia “No Relation” Galloway, leader of the Georgia director of Americans for Prosperity, and J.D. Van Brink, chairman of the Georgia Tea Party, condemned the referendum as an effort to “cater to the powerful hospital lobby.” Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, said her group will oppose the measure.

But in a strange way, opponents and proponents of Amendment 2 may be on the same side — united by their distrust of government.

“We have found from our focus groups that the big issue in the mind of the potential voter is, ‘Is this money really going to go where they say it’s going to go?’” Israel said. “There’s just a huge amount of skepticism out there about anything that has to do with government, period.”

Proponents of a statewide trauma network have spent year after year at the state Capitol in search of a steady, protected stream of funding.

Gov. Sonny Perdue backed a “superspeeder” law that carried extra-heavy fines, with funds aimed at a trauma network. It’s good policy, but doesn’t generate nearly enough money, said Dr. Dennis Ashley, a trauma surgeon in Macon and chairman of the underfunded Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission. He’ll be one of the many faces of the Amendment 2 campaign.

But consider him just as skeptical as any member of the tea party.

“We’re voters too. And we pay taxes and fees, too. And we’ve watched our money go into the coffers of the General Assembly and then be used for pork projects and things. And that’s not what anybody wants,” Ashley said.

And so Amendment 2 will include language that prevents money raised by the $10 fee from being spent on anything but trauma care. Much like cash from the lottery is, by constitutional amendment, placed beyond the reach of the General Assembly.

Nor are backers of Amendment 2 seeking endorsements from Georgia’s political leaders. “We have not asked the candidates. I’m just not sure how voters see candidates right now,” Israel said.

Which is probably a smart move. But even that may not help Amendment 2.

In which case, Georgians may be advised to keep a spare quarter with them at all times — to be ready for that sudden, life-changing game of heads-or-tails.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

18 comments Add your comment


September 22nd, 2010
6:18 pm

If you think this is expensive, wait until Lake Lanier runs dry and we have to run a pipe to the Tennessee River

Fed up with this rubbish

September 22nd, 2010
6:26 pm

Only the idiots of the Tea Pary could vote against improving trauma care unless of course one of them gets hurt on the freeway and then I am sure they will take advantage of it.


September 22nd, 2010
7:04 pm

Why don’t they just sell stickers, like the fraternal order of police that has cops give me a pass when speeding, but these will let the ambulance driver know I paid for trauma care and to get me there in 60 minutes or less; and like pizza if they don’t get me there by then the funeral is free. Simple market based solution!

When Hell Freezes Over

September 22nd, 2010
7:07 pm

Fed up with this rubbish:

“Only the idiots of the Tea Pary could vote against improving trauma care”

I don’t believe that all members of the Tea Party oppose this. While not a member of the Tea Party, I understand their frustration with the onerous taxation we all experience. I favor the tax, in this case, becuase trauma care is so limited in Georgia. I believe this measure will pass.


September 22nd, 2010
7:22 pm

There is no such thing as a the TEA PARTY, it is a made for TV movement and is a part of the Republican Party. If you want to vote for a TP candidate you have to be registered as a Republican. They can’t make laws, they can’t lower taxes, they are Republicans.


September 22nd, 2010
7:35 pm

So we can believe it will go to expand access to trauma centers? Like how we keep paying for GA 400 long after it is paid off? We certainly need them. It will take over an hour to get to one from here, using a helicopter. But, mistrust the government? Yes, in spades.


September 22nd, 2010
7:36 pm

However, I don’t think the car tag is the “vehicle” for this. Not everyone has a car. Think of something else, something everyone has to have.

Teresa Tatum - Catoosa County Tea Party

September 22nd, 2010
9:12 pm



I am a HAPPY 48 year old small business owner, wife, mother and beer drinking Christian who “swears” and spends my “spare time” working to get politicians out of my bedroom and my wallet. I am no longer a Republican and because the powerful, antiquated Neo-Cons have perverted the definition, I do not wish to identify myself as “conservative”. I am a “CONSTITUTIONALIST PATRIOT”. The continued attempts to control and desecrate my “GOD GIVEN” rights, strengthens my determination and validates my purpose.

I began my pro bono ACTIVIST career one year ago at the PEACEFUL….9/12 March in DC against the ever expanding, corrupt leviathan we call government. The local Republican, good-ole-boys network…won’t say it out loud, but they UNDERSTAND that I am their worst political nightmare. The local Democrats ignore me.

I am DRIVEN by principal and confidence. I am forever, a PEACEFUL WARRIOR in this cause. I understand that our exceptional and unprecedented Constitution is timeless, equitable and prudent. I represent over 65% of the TP demographic.

It appears that you have allowed the superficial, narcissistic, POP CULTURE-worshiping, news media to become your ORACLE by default. Consider yourself enlightened……You are welcome!


Question Man

September 22nd, 2010
11:02 pm

Now that the “super-speeder” law has been shown not to do what it is supposed to do, will it be repealed?

LOL At the nutjob

September 22nd, 2010
11:27 pm

My goodness tea party whack job, that sounds like a Mel Gibson monologue before he goes and slaughters some tribe. You need to get some.


September 23rd, 2010
6:16 am

The problem with the super speeder law is it is so poorly written it’s hard to really implement. I can drive on 20 east towards Athens and be flagged a super speeder for 16 mph over the posted limit, however I can drive 40 mph over the posted limit in “downtown” Snellville and not be a super speeder. What’s wrong with that picture? Where am I more dangerous?


September 23rd, 2010
6:17 am

I meant Augusta, I know Athens isn’t off 20. Brain lapse this early in the morning.


September 23rd, 2010
7:06 am

all roads lead to Athens
you could get meet that standard on 316 or the loop

The Tea Partier

September 23rd, 2010
7:56 am

I AM THE TEA PARTY. I hate taxes. Taxes are bad. Libberals just want to take all your money. I don’t care about emergency rooms. Let the market decide. I want to keep all my money.

PS Keep your hands off my Social Security check and my Medicaid benefits.


September 23rd, 2010
10:43 am

According to the Leviticus quoting tea partier on the other post, isn’t “beer drinking, and swearing” “Christian” an oxymoron. I mean, according to the letter of the scriptures, she can’t be a Christian if she gets drunk and swears. I’m just saying.

Just Nasty & Mean

September 23rd, 2010
11:26 am

Com’on JohnQ. Even Jesus drank wine! The bible says “don’t act foolishly”. Drinking isn’t the problem, acting foolishly is.

Dagny Taggart

September 23rd, 2010
3:23 pm

@ LOL and The Tea Partier: Really? That’s all you’ve got? You’re just going to resort to name calling?

The Tea Party “nut job” is a woman who is sick of the government dipping into her wallet to pay for other people’s mistakes, i.e. people who were unqualified to home loans but received them anyway, people who are happy to be on unemployment and Medicaid, and big businesses who ran themselves into the ground yet are being ’saved’ by the government. It’s a common misconception that tea partiers are against taxes – the trauma care ballot amendment is actually a very reasonable tax.

Oh, and @The Tea Partier – a real ‘tea partier’ wouldn’t be caught dead on Medicaid. They prefer to pay their own medical bills.


September 26th, 2010
4:58 pm

There are two fundamental hypocrisies in the Tea Party’s opposition to this amendment:

1. The TP wants to replace income tax with consumption taxes as a means of gathering revenue. Amendment Two proposes a car tag surcharge–essentially a user fee since it charges only people who own cars, and since automobile accidents are by far the most common cause of traumatic accidents (accidents which may well happen in locations far from hospitals).

2. The TP opposes distributing government funds to the undeserving, which in the case of the TP, means the poor. But the poor are far less likely to be driving in out-of-the-way places. The primary beneficiaries of this fee are the middle class and upper class (if you’re rich and you suffer a head-on 20 miles from Tiny Town, Georgia, even with your OnStar service, you’re likely to die without a nearby trauma center.

Certainly we shouldn’t rely on government at any level to do for us what we can do for ourselves. But Amendment 2 addresses one of those rare cases where we can’t protect ourselves individually. The fact that the Tea Partiers oppose Amendment 2 shows that they’re willing to sacrifice their own families’ safety in order to promote an irrelevant principle.