“I’m tempted to say I’ve been witnessing to the governor about the benefits of taxation,” joked Democratic Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory, who believes the hospital tax and higher price of cigarettes will help improve Mississippi’s health rankings.
Barbour is a former GOP national chairman and hasn’t completely ruled out running for president in 2012. He might have to explain to national audiences why he actively pursued taxes after saying repeatedly that he didn’t want the government digging into folks’ wallets.
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.”
A hospital tax was enacted under Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice in the early 1990s and was used for about a dozen years. In 2005, the federal government blocked Mississippi from using the complicated formula in which the hospital assessment was used to leverage federal cash for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the needy.