Let’s go back and take another look at stories we reported earlier this year.
In January, fresh-faced congressmen Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk got off to a stumbling start on their first day in office when both of them voted to elect John Boehner to another term as House speaker.
Those votes did not go over well with the tea party enthusiasts who helped elect them, which meant that Hice and Loudermilk were slammed all over the social networks by angry constituents denouncing them as traitors and demanding their immediate recall from office.
Shortly after those ignominious votes, Hice and Loudermilk joined a new group of ultra-conservative Republicans calling themselves the “Freedom Caucus.” That move made all the difference in the world.
That Freedom Caucus, which consists of about 40 members, has agitated so successfully against the House leadership that they motivated Boehner to resign and forced Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to withdraw from the race to elect a new speaker.
In the space of just nine months, then, Hice and Loudermilk have gone from being pariahs to being power-brokers, and they haven’t even served a whole year in Congress.
We’ve written several times about Gov. Nathan Deal’s refusal to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income Georgians and the governor’s subsequent attempts to find some way to provide medical coverage that doesn’t involve Obamacare.
How have Deal’s efforts worked out? Not very well.
A report released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Georgia still has more than 1.5 million non-elderly residents who don’t have health insurance. Only three states have higher numbers of uninsured citizens: California, Texas, and Florida.
Georgia also has the third-highest number of residents who are uninsured because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to qualify for federal subsidies under Obamacare. This is known as the “coverage gap,” and the only states with more people trapped in that gap are Texas and Florida.
On top of having a lot of people without health insurance, Georgia also has an alarming number of hospitals that have either declared bankruptcy or are in danger of doing so. The search for a healthcare solution continues.
Last year, as Deal was running against Democratic challenger Jason Carter for another term as governor, he was put in the awkward position of being the governor of a state that had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That ranking at the bottom of the employment barrel tended to punch holes in Deal’s campaign statements that he had a great record of creating jobs and making Georgia a friendly place to do business. In the end, it did not prevent Deal from winning another term in office, as he defeated Carter at the ballot box.
How has Georgia’s workforce fared since then? There has been some improvement in those numbers.
The state slowly climbed out of last place in the rankings and the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data has Georgia in 38th place with a lower unemployment rate of 5.9 percent. That’s still higher than the national jobless rate, but it’s lower than last year.
During the legislative session, the story that drew the heaviest media coverage was the campaign to raise the state’s gasoline excise tax by about 6 cents per gallon. The bill eventually passed, and it also imposed a new tax on electric vehicles and a $5 daily surcharge on hotel stays.
Has the new tax raised more revenue for road construction projects? Indeed it has.
Georgia’s tax collections increased by 6.1 percent in July, which was the first month that the tax hikes took effect, and then exploded by 13.6 percent in August and 8.7 percent in September, according to the revenue department.
Largely because of the new taxes, the state has collected $438 million more tax dollars during the first quarter of the fiscal year compared to the same quarter last year.
Fortunately for legislators, the increased gasoline tax took effect at the same time that the retail price of gasoline sold at the pump was steadily declining. This means that motorists saw only that the overall price of fuel was going down, nullifying any negative backlash that might otherwise have accompanied the tax hike.
With that all that new money pouring into the state coffers, you’ll see more concrete being poured for new highway projects.
© 2016 by The Georgia Report