‘Bed tax’ alternative clears Senate committee

The alternative to the controversial ‘hospital bed tax’ set to expire this year cleared the Senate Regulated Industries Committee yesterday, getting a ‘Do Pass’ recommendation.

The new proposal, introduced by Governor Nathan Deal’s floor leaders in the House and Senate, would shift responsibility for levying the fee away from the Legislature and to the Department of Community Health. Under the alternative proposal’s initial language, the fee would face renewal every 5 years, with an initial expiration date coming in June of 2018.

Following heated debate, the ‘bed tax’ was passed in the 2010 session and is set to expire in June of this year. It was designed to fill a $500 million void in the state’s Medicaid budget.

Filed as Senate Bill 24, it cleared the committee with support from 11 of the 14 members. The one amendment was a provision setting the expiration date “a year earlier than first proposed,” instead moving it to 2017.

“All three of the state’s major hospital organizations” back the proposal, and in testimony they cited the potential for “massive reductions in Medicaid reimbursements” as further grounds for continuing the fee In particular, rural hospitals were cited as ones that would face serious consequences.

Still, some have blasted the proposal as an abdication of responsibility by the Georgia General Assembly. The fee itself has long been met with harsh criticism from anti-tax advocates like Grover Norquist, Chairman of Americans for Tax Reform.

Newly-minted President Pro Tem David Shafer said that the bill “would not raise any revenue.”

Other detractors called attention to the proposal’s Senate introduction, citing concerns on legality. Senator David Lucas, a Democrat from Macon, called the bill a “revenue measure,” saying that all such bills had to begin in the state House.

Charlie Bethel, S.B. 24’s sponsor and one of Governor Deal’s floor leaders, countered by saying that it was a proposal centered on authority rather than revenue.

-Brandon Howell

December 14, 2012
October 16, 2012