Veteran lobbyist and political consultant Tom Ingram is being paid $5,000 per month by Gov. Bill Haslam’s re-election campaign, a spokesman for the governor said Tuesday.
David Smith said the monthly payments began on July 1. Before that, Haslam had been paying Ingram with personal funds and had refused to disclose the amount of his personal payments.
Asked if the $5,000 monthly campaign payments are the same as the undisclosed personal payments that proceeded, Smith declined to comment.
The campaign payments would eventually have become public, but disclosure would not be required until Jan. 31, 2014, the next date for filing a campaign disclosure in a non-election year.
The $5,000 payments will be at a considerably lower level than payments to Ingram and the Ingram Group, a consulting and lobbying firm he founded, during the intense 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Total payments to Ingram and the Ingram Group by the 2010 Haslam campaign totaled more than $600,000, according to a review of Registry of Election Finance records, starting with a $20,000 payment to Ingram on June 2, 2009, and ending with a payment of $20,834 to the Ingram Group on Jan. 27, 2011.
Smith said the payments by the 2014 campaign will be made to the Ingram Group.
On a sorta related note, see Gail Kerr’s column, which heaps praise upon Ingram while giving him a bit of a lecture, too, for failure to register as a lobbyist. An excerpt:
Ingram’s a pro. These are dumb, little mistakes he shouldn’t have made. Whether he’s playing small ball with the council or long ball with the big boys, he needs to play by the rules.
Tom Ingram knows better
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennesseans drawing unemployment benefits will soon lose a weekly $15-per-child allowance as part of a new law signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Friday that the change will help bolster the state unemployment trust fund, which could lead to a reduction in unemployment taxes paid by businesses.
According to the department’s projections, ending the allowance for dependent children in the budget year beginning July 1 will save the state $40 million per year.
Lawmakers created the child allowance in 2009 in order to qualify for a nearly $142 million federal stimulus grant. Now that that money had been spent, the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year passed a bill to end the program. It passed 66-23 in the House and 24-5 in the Senate.
“That benefit was nice while it lasted and while it was being paid for with federal dollars,” said Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, a main sponsor of the bill to make the benefit changes.
State lawmakers thought a 2011 bill allowing revocation of driver’s licenses for deadbeats who failed to pay criminal fines and court costs would reap millions in reinstatement fees, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
But seven months into the first year of operation, only nine counties are complying and the state has collected just $22,425. The shortfall has left a gaping hole in the department’s budget, Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said last week.
“The department is requesting $7.6 million in supplemental funding for the current fiscal year in order to correct the overestimate of driver’s license reinstatement fees,” Gibbons told Senate Transportation Committee members.
The law requires county court clerks to notify the state of scofflaws who’ve gone at least a year without paying anything toward fines and costs. The department then revokes their licenses until they start to pay up.
Tennessee charges $65 for each license reinstatement plus an additional fee for the license.
Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell is among those participating. So are clerks in the three other largest counties — Davidson, Knox and Shelby.
A number of counties are “working on methods to provide notices electronically” to the state, Gibbons said.
Some Tennessee hospitals are questioning why they should continue paying a self-imposed tax to prop up the state’s Medicaid program, reports The Tennessean. It seems hospitals raising the questions are losing money treating TennCare patients while some others are being paid much higher reimbursements.
Hospital executives were shocked to learn that insurance contractors for TennCare, the state health-care program for the poor, were paying more than four times as much to some hospitals as to others for outpatient procedures. In some cases, the disparities amounted to millions of dollars — enough to make or break a hospital’s budget.
The tension threatens to fracture a carefully negotiated alliance that keeps the state from losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching money.
One of the state’s largest hospitals, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, has left the Tennessee Hospital Association, the organization that came up with the idea for the “enhanced coverage fee,” a 3.5 percent assessment on patient revenue.
Craig Becker, THA president, said a solution is in the works. His organization has asked TennCare to set new guidelines to narrow the disparities in reimbursements. The state agency has agreed to a more equitable payment scale, and a bill is moving through the legislature to do that.
…Hospitals can receive different reimbursements for a variety of reasons. One with a trauma center or a neonatal intensive care unit would provide more expensive treatment.
But the biggest variable is the fact that TennCare contracts with three managed-care organizations that negotiate with individual hospitals to set reimbursement rates.
Those rates are considered proprietary business information, so hospitals did not realize how much disparity there was until TennCare proposed a new rule as a cost-saving measure. The rule said no hospital should receive more than what Medicare — the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled — would pay for a procedure.
That proposal raised eyebrows, because TennCare typically pays less than Medicare.
After hospitals complained about disparities, the THA hired Aon Consulting, the same firm that serves as TennCare’s actuary, to analyze reimbursements.
Aon found that for outpatient services, some hospitals got just 60 percent of what Medicare would pay, while others got more than four times the Medicare rate.
For routine hospital stays, some hospitals received reimbursements higher than Medicare’s, while others got as little as one-fifth of what Medicare would pay.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Knox County Commission is looking into incentive payments Trustee John Duncan III gave himself and some of his employees over the last two years for participating in a program most have yet to complete.
Duncan, son of U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., says problems with the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Services’ computer system are the reason for the problems. But some commissioners wonder why the members of the trustee’s office failed to finish the certified public administrator courses they were taking after Duncan and the employees received a combined $57,000 in bonuses.
Duncan’s explanation to the Knoxville News Sentinel has changed over time (http://bit.ly/xhhEYG). But he contends computer issues at UT were the main culprit, a statement UT and some commissioners contend isn’t true.
State law says bonuses should only go to those who attain certified public administrator designation.
“It’s really infuriated a lot of people,” Commissioner R. Larry Smith said. “There are people who want questions answered, and the taxpayers are pretty upset.”
Smith said this week he got “pressure” some elected officials who work in the City County Building to take the item off the commission’s agenda. He wouldn’t say where that pressure came from, but noted: “That’s not going to happen.”
Duncan paid the bonuses in 2010 and 2011. He sent a letter to the News Sentinel this week. In it, he said the 2010 incentive payments were made “under the assumption (that the employees) would be certified public administrators by the end of the fiscal year.”
“This proved to be impossible, as the program’s web courses were made unavailable for months due to UT computer system upgrades,” Duncan wrote. “The inability to complete the work was at no fault of the course participants, so a one-time payment was made to those who pursued the program with reasonable diligence.”
Duncan repeated the explanation in an interview Friday, but CTAS Executive Director Mike Garland said the website was disabled July through August — after the fiscal year ended.
Garland also said that to complete the program in 2011, officials needed to attend a three-day seminar, offered in April and May. No one in the Trustee’s Office attended it.
Tennessee Democratic Party news release:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Records show Rep. Stephen Fincher raked in another $88,000 in crop payments from the federal government in 2010 — at the same time he was campaigning against government spending.
During his career as a subsidy farmer, Fincher has siphoned off $3,342,062 in tax dollars from the farm subsidy payouts, according to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit consumer advocacy group.
“Mr. Fincher is just another hypocrite who’s willing to slash spending for Medicare, women and children, but is happy to keep raking in tax dollars for himself,” said Chip Forrester, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “Mr. Fincher has shown us over and over again that his lips don’t tell the same story as his actions.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A computer glitch in a new $37 million computer system installed at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has led hundreds of foster-care parents to miss monthly room and board payments from the state.
A call log shows that foster-care and adoptive parents for more than 1,200 children across the state either received their payments late or the money never arrived last fall.
Back payments for foster care, adoption assistance and state-subsidized guardianship totaled nearly $600,000 between September 2010 and April, according to the call logs.
DCS spokesman Rob Johnson told The Tennessean that the agency is spending an additional $300,000 for help managing the financial-accounting component of the software.
DCS attributed payment problems to migrating data stored on multiple software systems to a single new system, called the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System