May 14, 2013 — Gov. Nathan Deal last week unexpectedly vetoed a bill that would have given $9 million in sales tax breaks to charitable medical clinics, federally qualified health centers, food banks and other charities. The measure, which breezed through the House and Senate, would have benefited many safety-net providers that expect to carry an extra patient load once the federal Affordable Care Act begins phasing out hospital subsidies for indigent care next year.
Deal’s veto message noted that a 2010 tax reform panel recommended that all non-government and non-business exemptions be allowed to expire so the Legislature could decide whether they should be renewed. He did not apply that principle, however, when he signed a bill last month extending an estimated $18 million tax break to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a Savannah-based manufacturer of luxury jets.
A powerful Cobb County legislator collected $40,000 last year to do research to help an advocacy group decide the best way to ask the Legislature for money. Rep. Earl Ehrhart and his client, Friends of Arts & Culture, say he did not help to write a bill that would have allowed local votes on arts funding, nor did he help move it through the Legislature. “I never consult on any type of legislation that’s going on here,” he said. Ehrhart did not disclose his client or his fee, which state law does not require. Nor did he disclose the name of his consulting business, which the law does require. This is what passes for transparency in the Georgia Legislature. UPDATE: An ethics complaint regarding this transaction was filed this week with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.
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