What Exactly Is A Tax

In a Tom Humphreys editorial he stated that “Great pains have been taken explain to everyone who will listen that requiring that Tennessee hospitals turn over 3.52 percent of their gross patient revenues to state government does NOT, NOT, NOT impose a tax.” I could only help but giggle over the prospect that a Republican controlled State House and Senate would offer up the idea. Mr. Humphrey explains what we already know. A fee is a tax.

“In Legislatorland these days, the word “fee” is now pretty much equal in evil to the word “tax.” And everybody hates, loathes and despises taxes. So that hospital matter, you see, was a “enhanced coverage assessment” (ECA).

Once upon a time, little tax and fee increases – a legislator once called them “doodad taxes” – could slide through the General Assembly with nobody noticing, much less objecting.

No more, unless it’s a “litigation tax” imposed on people who find themselves in court for one reason or another. Or the “crack tax” that calls for dealers in illegal narcotics to buy tax stamps. Those still pass handily.

But if the Department of Health wants to charge folks $1 to get their dog vaccinated so the state’s rabies prevention program can continue to function, to use one current example, a substantial segment of lawmakers will begin biting and growling like a canine with hydrophobia.

Call it fee phobia.”

Later on in the article Mr. Humpheys explains that in the eyes of most in state and local government spending Federal money is not really spending money.

ECA supporters explained that the money is already appropriated by Congress and therefore available for use. Thus it’s not really being spent?

So spending the federal money is not really spending the money because it’s already there, or already part of the deficit. And the assessment is not a tax. It is, instead, the miraculous appearance of $639 million into the hands of hospitals taking care of the sick and injured who could not pay the money themselves.

So strong is this belief with representative members that the hospital fee bill passed in the Senate 25-5 and in the House 90-5 but those that opposed the bill had something else to fear.

“All five no votes in the Senate came from lawmakers with reason to fear political opponents attacking them in this year’s elections as voting for an evil tax increase in a 30-second sound bite commercial. And any explanation would require 10 minutes while voters either went to sleep or got mad.”

Those 5, Humphreys explains, are Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who was running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination; Sens. Diane Black and Jim Tracy, who were running against each other for the Republican nomination for the 6th District Congressional seat (won by Diane Black); and Sens. Mae Beavers and Lowe Finney (owned by WTHC), who face strong challenges to reelection to the Senate – Beavers in the Republican primary, Democrat Finney in the general election. So the establishing of fees for service is so froth with danger that those exposing themselves to the public find just enough reason for not voting for it when it is apparent that it might be viewed as collection of revenue from a majority of active participates while at other times when those that might have to pay that fee are those that are incarcerated or just passing through the state, that is another matter.

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