Political Notes – Hill compares hospital tax to ‘pimps’ and ‘crack’

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As we reported earlier this week, Georgia legislators will have a tough decision to make in the next session on the hospital provider tax adopted in 2010 to help plug a hole in the Medicaid budget.

That tax expires next June 30 unless the General Assembly votes to reauthorize it, and conservative lawmakers are already being urged not to extend the tax.

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist sent a letter to legislators this week instructing them to kill the tax and warning that a vote to extend it would violate the “no new taxes” pledges that many of them signed with Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

Norquist found a receptive audience in state Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), who opposed the hospital tax in 2010 but missed the Senate vote on the tax bill, HB 307.

In an interview with the Marietta Daily Journal’s Jon Gillooly, Hill said he would vote against the tax again and called it an example of the “crack dollars” that the federal government sends to the states:

“I call it federal crack dollars,” Hill said. “The federal government pimps us with federal dollars — and they’re doing it again with Obamacare — and then along the way they reduce the federal allocation after the state has chosen to participate in the program or expand their program based on receiving federal dollars, and politically it becomes even more challenging to ‘just say no.’

Several of Hill’s Cobb County colleagues told the MDJ they may also vote against extending the hospital tax, although they did not use the words “crack” and “pimp” in explaining their reasons.

Reps. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), and newly elected Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) appear to be “no” votes at this point.

Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), who easily defeated a tea party opponent in this year’s GOP primary, said he is “inclined” to vote for reauthorizing the tax.

Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) did not take a hard stance either way on how they will vote.

One of most interesting responses to the MDJ came from Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), who was elected last year to replace the late Bobby Franklin in the House:

“I did not sign the pledge, or any pledges, because I serve my constituents in northeast Cobb and southeast Cherokee, not Grover Norquist,” Carson said.

“I am very much a fiscal conservative, but I work for and answer only to my constituents. Having said that, I am becoming familiar with the bed tax, which was more or less a temporary plug in the budget several years ago, and I am eager to look for ways to eliminate it.”

MARTA picks a new GM

MARTA’s board of directors voted Thursday to appoint Keith Parker, head of the San Antonio transit system, as the new general manager to replace outgoing Beverly Scott.

Parker comes to the MARTA job with a good track record in managing transit systems, but he will quickly face the same situation that has haunted MARTA for years: a rocky relationship with the state legislators who oversee the system’s operations.

Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), chairman of the MARTA Overview Committee in the House, wanted the MARTA board to choose someone in-house as the new GM. “An internal candidate who is committed to doing the work that needs to be done to get MARTA’s fiscal ship righted could go a long way to shoring up and bolstering the relationship with the General Assembly,” Jacobs said last month.

Jacobs earlier this week accused the MARTA board of voting privately to select Parker, in violation of the state’s open meetings law, and asked the attorney general’s office to investigate.

No “cliff,” Isakson says

Despite all the dire warnings of a fiscal “cliff” that the federal government could be going over after election day, Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson sounded optimistic about the subject during an appearance Thursday at the Atlanta Press Club.

“We’ll probably pass a pathway to the future in the lame-duck session, meaning we’ll probably forestall the tax increases from taking place,” said Isakson, as reported by GPB’s Jeanne Bonner.

“We’ll probably forestall the sequestration from taking place. But we’ll take some initial corrective steps in spending and regulation to send a signal to the rest of the world that the Americans are finally going to address their problem.”

The “cliff” refers to deep spending cuts in the military that were part of the deal reached by congressional Republicans and Democrats in August 2011 to raise the deficit ceiling and keep the federal government from going into financial default.

Unless a new agreement can be reached in Congress, those extensive spending reductions will take effect soon.

Upcoming

Robert Levy, chairman of the conservative Cato Institute, will speak on “Contrasting Constitutional Perspectives: Liberal vs. Conservative vs. Libertarian” at Georgia Gwinnett College at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Cisco Auditorium.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Grover Norquist , hospital provider tax , John Carson , Johnny Isakson , Judson Hill , Keith Parker , MARTA , Mike Jacobs