Sunday, February 23, 2014
Missouri House Budget Chairman Rick Stream plans to unveil Monday an alternative funding proposal to rebuild Fulton State Hospital (FSH), which he says will protect taxpayers and finish the project on a similar timeline as Gov. Jay Nixon’s bonding proposal.
The current FSH was built in 1851 and is known to be a dangerous environment for workers and patients.
Nixon’s plan includes a $198 million bond issue in the form of an appropriation bond to pay for the estimated $211 million project. The current state budget includes $13 million for design. Through the state’s general revenue, Missouri taxpayers would pay interest on the bonds for the next 25 years.
Stream hasn’t yet divulged any details of his proposal, but Jefferson City lawmaker Jay Barnes said, “I think what you’ll see is that the Legislature will find a way to pay for Fulton State Hospital over a shorter time frame involving less interest payments.”
Nixon accused House Budget committee lawmakers Wednesday of stripping funding for the new hospital in a supplemental budget bill.
House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said the committee did no such thing, because the bill never included funding for the project. The project was to be included in a separate supplemental budget bill.
“The truth is that the Missouri House fully supports the construction of a new facility in Fulton,” Jones said. “We simply choose not to take on new debt and force Missouri taxpayers to the pay the interest for the next 25 years.”
House lawmakers, including Stream, want to weigh all the options.
Stream, R-Kirkwood, said in an emailed statement that he’s been committed to the FSH project for years.
“The governor is working to stop a much-needed project because I am exploring all of my options before passing the cost onto my grandkids,” he said.
Rep. Jeanie Riddle, whose district includes Fulton, also said in an emailed statement that she’s behind Stream in his quest to determine the best proposal for the project.
“He shares my desire to build a new hospital that is the most fiscally responsible for the taxpayers,” she said.
She was skeptical of Nixon’s proposal from the beginning.
In his Jan. 21 State of the State address, he said the facility is “crumbling and in desperate need of replacement.”
“It’s inadequate to the needs of patients,” he said. “It’s dangerous for the staff who care for them, and it’s an embarrassment to our state.”
He advised the state to take action on bonds because interest rates are low and the state’s credit rating is high.
Following the address, Riddle told the News Tribune she was glad Nixon was addressing FSH’s needs, but lawmakers need to do what is most fiscally responsible for Missourians.
“We’re looking at just under $200 million for Fulton State Hospital,” she said. “That’s a lot of money. Even though it does serve every community in the state, we have to be responsible and ethical about it.”
Barnes said it’s generally known among the Legislature that a new FSH is a need, and he believes something will get accomplished this session.
“There’s just disagreement on how to do that,” he said. “It’s a normal and healthy part of the democratic process.”
Stream and Riddle were both contacted for comment in addition to the emailed statements, but calls were not returned.
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