Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, a floor leader for Deal, said Senate Bill 24 is a key piece of legislation.
“The reason it’s the first bill out is because the entire budget hinges on whether or not the Legislature will pass the bill,” he said. “The governor needs to know up front, because of the size of the budget hole.”
The Hospital Medicaid Financing Act will generate state funds to draw down federal money. Failure to extend the levy past June would mean the loss of $400 million to $600 million in the first year, Coomer said.
Hospitals across the state have lined up in support, but anti-tax conservatives have voiced opposition. Coomer is usually on the side of less government, but he said the state is in a bind.
Without the funding some community hospitals may have to close, he said, and doctors would cut their indigent care because an already low reimbursement rate would drop even lower.
“The state of Georgia did not create this mess, but we find ourselves in a system of socialized health care,” Coomer said. “Re-
gardless of our feelings we are participants in this. So, until the system goes away, we have to position Georgia so we’re harmed the least.”
The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn Thursday and reconvene Jan. 28. While the clock on the 40-day session stops ticking until the two chambers meet again, the intervening week will be a busy one at the state Capitol.
“Next week will be the House and Senate budget hearings,” said state Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome. “There will be lots of people coming and going to testify.”
Dempsey chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on human resources.
Her committee makes recommendations on the budgets for the departments of Behavioral Health and Developmental Dis-
abilities, Labor, Veterans Affairs and Human Services.
“I’m already starting to have meetings in my office with people who fall under the budget umbrella,” she said. “They want to be sure they’re prepared.”
Dempsey also attended the Recovery Day at the Capitol celebration Tuesday, with the governor, DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry and about 500 advocates and community representatives.
She said a large group from Northwest Georgia’s Highland Rivers Center attended the rally to spotlight the need for support services in the community.
“It was good to be able to put a true face to the challenges of addictive disease,” Dempsey said.
House members are expected to get their permanent 2013 – 2014 committee assignments by Thursday. Meanwhile, Dempsey and other veteran lawmakers are continuing work they did during the previous term.