Mike Klein Online

Supporters: Trauma Care Funding Amendment Slain by Angry Voters

Leading advocates for statewide dedicated trauma care funding said Wednesday afternoon that they will plead their case with Georgia Governor-elect Nathan Deal and the new General Assembly, but they are not optimistic about chances to find $80 million in the current state budget or anytime soon.

Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission chairman Dr. Dennis Ashley said voters are angry and they distrust politicians to take their money and do the right thing.  “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ashley said.  “We felt like if we got out there and showed the facts we could overcome it.”

Constitutional Amendment #2 asked voters to approve a $10 annual vehicle registration tax that would be dedicated to improve trauma care throughout the state but mostly in rural Georgia.  The ballot question lost 52.6% to 47.4% and it failed in 145 of the state’s 159 counties.

“I don’t think this was about $10 or trauma care.  It was about government,” said Kevin Bloye, vice president of the Georgia Hospital Association.  “What we heard was (voters) didn’t feel like the money would be used for trauma.   They felt like it would be money flushed down another hole.  As much as we tried to tell them the dollars were locked into trauma care, they weren’t buying it.”

Tuesday was the first time Georgia voters were asked to consider dedicated trauma care funding.  “Even with unemployment the way it is and anti-government sentiment, we still got 1.2 million people that thought trauma care was enough of a problem that they were willing to pay $10 per year,” said Ashley.

“That’s no small number.  The ones who voted no, they were supportive of trauma care.  They thought it was a good idea to save 700 lives a year.  They just wanted no more taxes and they want the money to come from the general fund.”

Despite its defeat, the amendment overcame a perception north Georgia voters would not approve funds that would primarily assist south Georgians.  Three large population counties in metropolitan Atlanta – Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton – approved the measure by slim margins, as did Chatham County (Savannah) on the southeast coast.  But much needed rural support never materialized.

“The irony was the people who needed this amendment to pass the most were the ones who rejected it,” Bloye said.  “Without doubt the major gaps in trauma care are in south Georgia, southwest Georgia and northeast Georgia. Those are the areas that rejected the amendment.”

Georgia’s General Assembly created the constitutional amendment path when it could not or would not fund trauma care from the state’s general budget.  Ashley said he discussed trauma care funding with Governor-elect Deal “two weeks ago.  He talked like he was supportive of (dedicated trauma care funding) but we didn’t get into any details. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.”

Bloye pointed to “an unprecedented time in state government.  Collections remain down.  There are huge funding holes.  Frankly, it’s going to be very difficult the next few years to get anything done with trauma care. Does that mean we will stop working on it?  Absolutely not.  We will work as hard as ever but this is going to be a huge uphill climb.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

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November 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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