Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’
February 12th, 2015 at 6:36 pm
GOP Senators: Obama Admin Officials “Evading” Whether Backup Plan Exists If Supremes Strike Down Subsidies

Does the Obama administration have a backup plan if the Supreme Court interprets ObamaCare according to its terms and prohibits federal subsidies to Americans in 36 states?

If so, top administrators at Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury aren’t sharing.

That lack of transparency – and the havoc it could wreck on millions of mandatory ObamaCare users – angers a group of powerful Senate Republicans.

“I want to make certain that the government has notified people who have signed up through the HHS insurance exchange – including the thousands of Georgians who were forced to enroll after ObamaCare cancelled their health plans – of the potential consequences of the Court ruling against the government, especially given the fact that the cost of the program could be significantly increased,” Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said in a statement.

“The Obama administration needs to be forthcoming about its backup plans so my constituents can make their own backup plans.”

Isakson and other Republicans serving on the Senate Finance Committee sent a strongly worded letter to several government agencies demanding details of any contingency plans. In it they charge HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen with “lack of candor” and “evad[ing] the issue when it was raised at hearings before the Committee this week.”

Consider this another unfulfilled promise of “the most transparent administration in history.

October 16th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
More Employer Mandate Madness

Even though it’s been delayed for a year, Obamacare’s employer mandate is still giving business owners cold sweats.

North Georgia Staffing, a family-owned boutique staffing agency, currently employs 18 full-time workers and 400 temporary workers. Next year it plans to add another 200 temps.

The problem facing Debbie and Larry Underkoffler, the owners, is whether to extend the same insurance coverage to all workers or pay a $2,000 per employee fine, they told Fox News.

The projected fine would be $400,000, while giving all workers an Obamacare-approved plan would top $2 million.

The Underkofflers’ case is particularly galling because prior to any government mandate they already provide their workers – both full-timers and temps – with access to health insurance.

Yet under Obamacare’s system of mandates and penalties, it makes better financial sense for the Underkofflers to dump their temporary workers on Georgia’s federally-run exchange and pare back benefits for the full-timers. In both cases, workers are projected to pay more for health insurance and get less.

All this makes perfect sense, however, if you agree with Obamacare’s primary goal of increasing the number of people with health insurance by regulatory fiat.

North Georgia Staffing, supporters would argue, is laudable but an outlier. Most temporary workers don’t have health insurance. The way to (somewhat) pay for the cost of covering them is to either (1) make employers eat the price increase, or (2) use the fines when they refuse to (partially) fund the federal subsidies temps will use to buy insurance on an exchange. If that means that some owners and workers will pay more for less, it’s a worthy sacrifice to increase access to health insurance for others.

That’s the baseline policy argument for Obamacare’s employer mandate. No doubt it doesn’t poll as well as “If you like your doctor and insurance you can keep it,” but at least it’s the truth.

January 31st, 2012 at 3:15 pm
Protecting Taxpayers from Public Broadband Boondoggles
Posted by Print

In today’s world of crushing deficits and bureaucratic overreach, government has no business venturing into the world of operating communications networks.  That sort of adventurism merely competes with private investment dollars and creates even more debt for which struggling taxpayers are ultimately liable.

Broadband expansion itself is obviously a good thing, but the history of public broadband is simply one of failure.  The city of Marietta, Georgia provides just another example.

In 1996, Marietta entered the marketplace as an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Predictably, the city struggled to keep pace with rapidly-changing technology and developments in the broadband arena. Eight years later, the city realized the effort was lost, so it sold its broadband network, FiberNet, for $11.2 million.  Unfortunately, that boondoggle meant a huge loss for Marietta taxpayers: the city had sunk $35 million into FiberNet before unloading it.

Marietta’s experience is far from isolated.  As I pointed out in testimony last year to the North Carolina legislature, from Taiwan to Sydney and Houston, Texas to Burlington, Vermont, recent history is rife with public broadband network failures.  North Carolina lawmakers wisely approved legislation placing additional requirements on cities and municipalities entering the broadband market.  Elsewhere, however, government-owned networks (GONs) continue to place taxpayers at great risk, stifling private sector investment and job creation and paradoxically causing fewer Americans to have access to broadband.

Because they are at such risk of failure, GONs also receive tax and regulatory advantages by the governments that ultimately build and operate them.  That is not only unfair, it’s highly destructive.  It discourages private owners from expanding their networks and bringing jobs to an area.  Furthermore, GONs have a particularly damaging effect on rural broadband access.  After all, private investors are less likely to risk precious capital in areas where they will have to compete directly with the government, not to mention compete on a tilted playing field.  That leaves consumers with fewer choices – the public network – for broadband.  And when the public network fails like the one in Marietta did – and like most do – these consumers are left with a big bill and diminished broadband.

Fortunately, some leaders recognize the problem and take action.  Georgia State Senator Chip Rogers  recently introduced legislation (SB 313) that would make Georgia cities and politicians answer the tough questions before betting millions of taxpayer dollars on costly broadband networks.  The legislation would require cities and municipalities to hold hearings on proposed GONs, and then put their plans to an actual vote.  Those requirements seem more than fair considering that public broadband networks have failed virtually everywhere they’ve been attempted.  Indeed, taxpayers and consumers would be best served if cities and municipalities stayed out of the broadband market altogether.  Nonetheless, we applaud Sen. Rogers and call on his colleagues to swiftly pass the legislation he has introduced.