HOSPAC, THE POWERFUL political arm of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, knows more than a little about the care and feeding of state lawmakers in Richmond, even if some of them just don't get it. This year, the association, which represents nursing homes and hospitals across the state, was a lead player in a coalition that strongly supported higher taxes to pay for health care and other state services. Before all the budget votes were taken, at least six Republican delegates who opposed every significant effort to raise taxes asked HOSPAC for contributions for their reelection campaigns next year.

Last week, they got what they deserved in the group's estimation: nothing. In a refreshingly straightforward rejection letter, the group's top lobbyist, Katharine M. Webb, laid it on the line: "HOSPAC's financial support must be contingent on a recognition that it is reasonable for health care providers to be paid for the costs they incur to deliver services to Medicaid patients. Your failure to vote for a budget that only provided a modest increase places us in the difficult position of denying your contribution request."

Instead of taking their just lumps, the no-tax-increase lawmakers are miffed, acting as if the hospital PAC had been unfair and contending that the group had breached some sacred relationship between elected officials and lobbyists.

Oh, come on. Says Ms. Webb, "You have to at some point say our priorities are these, there are consequences when these priorities are not met. Not giving money to people whose priorities are different is not new. What's new is telling people why.''

Right on the money.