Governor Haley Barbour has said it so often during his first 5-1/2 years in office that he probably drawls it in his sleep: "I'm against raising anybody's taxes."
This year, the Republican signed three significant tax bills into law, and he didn't do so grudgingly. Barbour lobbied legislators for a hospital tax to help fund Medicaid and for two increases in the cigarette excise tax.
He had an answer ready last week when The Associated Press asked whether he had broken a promise.
On the hospital tax, Barbour said: "We're reinstating a tax that was collected before I was governor for many years, that the federal government decided that we were not collecting it in a legal way. For four years, I have been trying to get that restored because we need it for Medicaid. Let's remember, the hospitals offered to pay this tax. It was their idea. They wrote the law in the Fordice administration that created this. So, this is a reinstatement of a tax. It's not a tax increase."
Here's the problem with the "reinstatement" line: it ain't true. Straight from the Mississippi Hospital Association's press release (.doc file) on the matter:
MHA did devise the intergovernmental transfer (IGT) model that worked very well for Mississippi and 25 other states for over 15 years. That plan, however, was disallowed by the federal government in 2005.
The MHA-designed IGT program WAS NOT a taxation model. It was the equivalent of a Guaranteed Loan Program for the Division of Medicaid.
The current taxation model being proposed by the Governor and the Senate leadership is not, and never was, a proposal supported or designed by MHA.
Here's a link to the MHA online Press Room, which has several interesting documents on this issue.
I'd often wondered how Barbour and other GOP Legislators would explain the $210 million hospital tax at their "Taxed Enough Already" Parties. I guess they figure the people who go to them aren't smart enough to decipher the double-speak.