Earlier this week, Cobb Republican state lawmakers questioned whether the bed tax should be renewed when it comes up next year. The tax was adopted as state collections dropped due to the recession. It uses money paid by hospitals to generate an even larger pot of state and federal health care money, which then flows back to hospitals.
State Rep. Ed Setzler had said that only supported the bed tax in 2010 because it was part of a larger package that would reduce taxes overall, adding that he wouldn’t vote to continue the tax on its own. Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) said that after he failed to support the tax in 2010, he was stripped of his leadership of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee by Cagle, Majority Leader Chip Rogers and President Pro Tem Tommie Smith.
After Saturday morning’s Cobb Republican Party breakfast, Cagle said he hopes the legislature is careful with any changes it makes.
“If anybody is proposing a bed tax that would diminish the access to care, that would be bad public policy,” Cagle said.
Cagle said he would be open to proposals in which hospitals come together and pool their resources in order to save costs.
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Republican lawmakers should oppose renewing the tax, saying supporting it would violate the pledge not to raise taxes that many of them have signed.
During his half hour speech, Cagle declined to take a position on the charter schools amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved, the amendment would allow the state to create charter schools.
“I am a firm, firm believer in the charter model, and when I say ‘charter model,’ that means a contractual agreement that allows and really requires school systems to go through a 12 or 18 month strategic plan really assessing what we’re doing,” Cagle said. “But I also believe in the constitutional authority that resides in local school boards. So these are issues that are somewhat in conflict, but at the end of the day, putting the best democracy is allowing the electorate to voice their concerns and they’re going to have an opportunity in November.”
After the meeting, Cagle did show support for a decision by Attorney General Sam Olens. Olens, who was among the elected officials in attendance Saturday, sent a letter to state schools Superintendent John Barge asking school boards not to use public resources to come out for or against the charter amendment.
“I think the attorney general’s interpretation of the law is correct,” Cagle said.
While he was hesitant to make an endorsement on the charter schools amendment, Cagle enthusiastically threw his support behind Republican Mitt Romney in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama.
“Think about where we would have been if we had a President who really was concerned about unemployment, who really was concerned about our national affairs, what a difference it would have made,” Cagle said. “That was not the focus, what the focus was, was on Obamacare. The focus was on other issues that were driving a social agenda. This President has been, in my estimation, a total failure, and it’s illustrated based on all of us in this room. Nothing we own today is valued where it was five or six years ago.”
Cagle touted the international impact that some Georgia projects are having. A new Mitsubishi plant in Pooler, near Savannah, builds natural gas powered turbines that are shipped to Asia. While a Caterpillar plant being built near Athens is replacing one in Japan.
Cagle said the federal government provided no assistance in the deals.
“The federal government has been very hurtful with overburdening regulations and higher taxes,” he said. “We do need a better and more balanced tax structure to incentivize the free market.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) told the audience of 130 at Cobb GOP headquarters that he felt good about Romney’s chances.
“We’re feeling good, but we can’t spike the ball in the end zone and let our exuberance run wild,” Gingrey said. “The Democrats are capable of anything. What they’re saying now is that Mitt Romney is a liar and they’re fact checking everything…We’re at least back to even in battleground states, we’re going to win this thing, we’ve just got to keep fighting every moment of every day.”
Others in attendance at Saturday’s meeting included northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell; Sheriff Neil Warren; Cobb School Board members Scott Sweeney and Tim Stultz, as well as candidate Brad Wheeler; Superior Court Judge Reuben Green; state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), Hunter Hill, who is challenging Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna); Craig Harfoot, a write-in candidate against Chairman Tim Lee and Georgia Tea Party Chairman J.D. Van Brink.
William McLeod of Marietta said he liked Cagle, a former banking and real estate leader in northeast Georgia, because of his business background.
“That’s what we need is more people who are leaders in their own right in the private sector, instead of people who are career politicians” McLeod said. “”We need a renewed spirit of people who want to serve for the right reasons instead of just being elected.”