Three months out from the January session of the Legislature, some very specific lines in the sand are already being drawn.
Last week, to little fanfare, anti-tax guru Grover Norquist, president of the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to Republican state lawmakers requiring them to oppose any extension of a hospital bed tax that was passed in 2010 and is set to expire next June.
The tax was used to plug a multi-million dollar hole in the state’s Medicaid budget.
Voting to extend the bed tax, Norquist declared, would violate the anti-tax pledge that many of those state lawmakers have signed. Norquist tied the bed tax to this summer’s transportation sales tax vote:
Voters made known their opposition to tax increases just six weeks ago when they soundly defeated the T-SPLOST at the polls. This is an affirmation of the public’s general distaste for higher taxes, and rightly so: Georgia’s tax code is currently uncompetitive with its neighbors…
Norquist also tied the tax to the national debate over the federal deficit:
The reason it is so enticing to state lawmakers is that it allows state government to take advantage of the federal matching program for Medicaid. While hospitals in the state will be forced to cough up $216 million because of the tax increase, the heavily-indebted federal government will be on the hook for at least $200 million more. Fiscal conservatives should not be looking to Washington for more federal aid, especially when the national debt climbed above $16 trillion for the first time last week.
On Tuesday, four major health care systems in Georgia – Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Grady Memorial Hospital, Hometown Health and Memorial University Medical Center – produced their own, counter-epistle.
You can read all of it here. A taste:
The provider fee generates more than $200 million a year in state revenues. When matched .., Georgia receives about $400 million in additional funds to support the state Medicaid budget. Approximately two-thirds of these dollars cover expenses for the Medicaid program. The remaining one-third is used to help fund Medicaid hospital reimbursements. It is important to note that the amount raised from hospitals is returned to the hospital industry via these payments. …
If we left the federal match on the table as recommended by Mr. Norquist, the burden of funding Medicaid and caring for the most vulnerable Georgians would fall entirely on the backs of state and local taxpayers. This does not make sense when federal funds are made up of tax dollars that Georgia residents and businesses pay to the federal government. We should accept our own tax dollars back and use them for the benefit of our residents and their health.
The language is getting pretty rough out there. Rob Redding sends word that during a session with V-103 on Tuesday, comedian Paul Mooney referred to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a “serial killer.” To wit:
“There is something wrong with that man you can look and see, at his body language,” Mooney told urban power house WVEE-FM. “I mean something serious very scary, serial killer scary. There is something really wrong with him … His future is serial killer. It is in his future, you’ll see.”
Another player has surfaced in the charter school campaign. A group calling itself the Committee for Educational Freedom reported raising $13,150. Most of the cash — $10,000 – came from Americans For Prosperity, a favorite of the conservative Koch brothers.
This will be news for those of you on the Georgia coast. From the Associated Press:
Gov. Nathan Deal would deny a tax break for tourist attractions to a planned convention hotel on Jekyll Island because it would be unfair to competing hotels in the area, the governor’s spokesman said Tuesday.
Deal has already given plenty of support to boosting tourism and conventions on Jekyll Island, where Georgia taxpayers have invested $50 million in a new convention center and beachfront park, spokesman Brian Robinson said. But developers of a planned 200-room Westin hotel on the island state park should never have assumed they would get a tax subsidy from the state, he said.
“A hotel will be very successful there on Jekyll Island,” Robinson said. “But that investment needs to be made on a level playing field with other competing hospitality businesses on the island and in the area. The governor has said we’re not going to use this sales tax rebate in instances where the new entity competes with existing Georgia job providers.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider