When Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland voted on a resolution endorsing Governor Haslam’s Medicaid expansion, it shocked a lot of people.
Roland is a rock solid conservative and outspoken Republican. Why would he endorse Obamacare? Why did the resolution pass unanimously in the Commission with the exception of Heidi Shafer who recused herself? Surely the other four Republicans are not for Obamacare, too. What in the world happened?
To address his vote, Roland came to Saturday’s Dutch Treat Luncheon.
Roland began by saying “local politics is more important than what happens in Washington D.C. I am no fan of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, but I’m a local legislator and I have to play with the cards I get. This is the seventh group I have spoken to about this, but no one tells me what else to do. Doing nothing is not an option. We passed a resolution – supporting basically – we don’t care what you do in Nashville, but we need help in Shelby County.”
Roland went to a large tablet of paper on an easel. He drew a circle representing funding. “The general fund is supported by property taxes,” he said. Then he drew more lines to represent the money coming from Washington to Nashville, and a circle to represent Regional One, aka The Med. “If they cut it off, people won’t quit being sick. They won’t close the Med. They’ll have to get the money from the general fund and that means they will raise property taxes.
“If they raise the property tax, it will kill this county,” Roland continued. “It would push Memphis into being Detroit faster than anything. In Memphis 63% of people pay no property tax. They won’t be affected. With 7 Democrats on the Commission and 6 Republicans we won’t be able to stop them from raising property taxes.” He explained that since 385 was built and goes out to Marshall County, “everyone will go to Marshall County and Piperton where the taxes are one-third of ours. Everyone who leaves Shelby County puts a bigger burden on each one of us. What we really should do is to go down on property taxes and give people a reason to stay here.
“From 2000 to 2010 we lost 68,000 people to Mississippi and the wealth they took with them. We have the largest area of indigent people and people come from Arkansas and Mississippi to Regional One. People in surrounding areas pay less property tax and use our hospitals. The problem has morphed over the years.”
Roland commented that the ACA and state exchanges “are, in a nutshell, extorting our state.” If we don’t go along with it they will pull our funding.” Roland added that he has been concerned about this problem and sought out help from higher ups. “I have even talked to Steve Cohen about this problem, but all he wanted to talk about was legalizing marijuana.
“I’m not a politician, just someone trying to help his community. The resolution really doesn’t mean anything, but it did open up a dialogue. I’ll give you the straight skinny: where we’re at, what we can do and what we’re facing. I’m asking for solutions.” He welcomes calls from constituents and gave out his cell phone number: 634-4606. “I’m your voice in Nashville,” he said.
To get the ball rolling, Roland said he’s meeting next week with Mayor Wharton, attorney Eddie Settles and representatives from the major hospitals here to get ideas going on what we can do.”