Houston legislators: Transportation, health care need fixes

mstucka@macon.comMay 14, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County’s legislators said Wednesday they’re working together to fix transportation and health care problems.

During Wednesday’s Eggs & Issues breakfast at the Museum of Aviation, legislators talked about road upgrades in general and fixes for the Interstate 75-Interstate 16 interchange and Savannah’s port.

State Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, said a state study committee will soon begin looking all over the state for ways to address transportation funding. Fuel taxes are declining every year, leaving less money for road construction, said Epps, a retired paving contractor.

“Our current method of financing our construction is just not meeting our needs,” he said.

Epps said he has also approached Norfolk Southern to try to get another railroad crossing in Warner Robins near a planned veterans training center, across from Robins Air Force Base. The current route to the site off Wall Street is “such a maze,” he said.

State Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, said he’s looking for help launching another transportation sales tax effort. The I-75/I-16 interchange will cost about $300 million. Lucas also said he’s been trying to help rural areas get emergency rooms. Asked a question about Medicaid expansion, Lucas said Georgians are already paying for other states to help people caught between the regular Medicaid limits and subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. Those people will turn up sick at emergency rooms, leading hospitals to chase government subsidies for indigent care, he said.

“What is it going to cost us not to take care of these folks?” Lucas asked. “... As taxpayers, we pay for it.”

State Rep. Buddy Harden, R-Cordele, said federal actions on health care have driven up costs, and giving federal control over indigent care would lessen Georgia’s ability to cover it.

“If we do what the federal government has proposed and pick up another 600,000 people on Medicaid, I don’t believe there’s any way we’ll ever balance the budget again,” Harden said.

House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, said the state budget presented “an interesting dilemma to deal with. We actually had a little bit of extra money” this year. Most of that went into education, he said.

The monthly breakfast meeting is run by the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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