Mike Klein Online

Senator Greg Goggans: Blame Me for Trauma Care Amendment Defeat

Georgia state Senator Greg Goggans said Thursday he feels personally responsible for the defeat of a constitutional amendment to ensure dedicated funding to statewide trauma care.   “I take the blame for this,” Goggans told the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.  “I don’t think I did enough to make people understand early on what this was all about.”

Goggans was the principal architect of Senate Bill 277 that placed trauma care on Tuesday’s ballot.  The amendment question asked, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain passenger motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?”  Supporters expected to raise up to $80 million annually.

With 36 hours to reflect after Tuesday’s defeat, Goggans said “impose an annual $10 charge” might have been poorly worded.  “In hindsight, maybe impose was a terrible word,” Goggans said. “People looked at it as a tax.”

He is not hopeful the General Assembly will identify new funding this winter.  Goggans said last month’s mental health services negotiated agreement between Georgia and the U.S. Justice Department is a significant reason for that likely outcome.

Georgia agreed to comply with a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision that people with mental illness and developmental disabilities have a right to community treatment programs rather than segregation in state hospitals. In return, the federal government will not control state services.

But compliance will carry a steep cost.  Goggans estimated $15 million must be added to mental health services in the current year amended budget and $60-to-$65 million in the Fiscal 2012 budget.   “We have no reserves,” Goggans said, “and our one-time funds are gone.”

The trauma care amendment was not soundly rejected.  It lost by 135,000 votes from 2.5 million cast with 1.2 million voting yes.  But the amendment lost in 145 of 159 counties and rural county Georgians routinely voted no.  Goggans represents nine counties in deepest southern Georgia.

“There was a lot of push-back in rural Georgia that Atlanta would get all this money, that we would never get a trauma center in south Georgia,” Goggans said.  “I never could get it across, even to some of my personal friends.  I had friends say, if you could show me that we’re going to get a trauma center in Waycross or in Douglass, then I’ll vote for it but there’s no guarantee.

”I guess the last two or three weeks, when people started early voting, that’s when everything started to hit me; Yeah, people really have an issue with this and they don’t understand it,” Goggans said, “but I guess it was just too late.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

November 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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