By STEVE KRASKE
The Kansas City Star
Republicans pushed back hard Wednesday night against Gov. Jay Nixons charge earlier in the day that a GOP-led House committee had stripped funding out of a bill to rebuild the aging Fulton State Hospital.
House Speaker Tim Jones insisted that the House Budget Committee had done no such thing and called Nixons rhetoric a blatant falsehood.
The claim made by the governor that the House Budget Committee voted to strip funding for Fulton State Hospital is a blatant falsehood and political gamesmanship at its worst, Jones said in his statement. It is extremely disappointing to see him engage in such disingenuous actions.
Jones insisted the House fully supports construction of a new facility in Fulton, which now ranks as the oldest state psychiatric hospital west of the Mississippi.
We simply choose not take on new debt and force Missouri taxpayers to pay the interest for the next 25 years. Instead we have a fiscally responsible plan to fund this desperately needed project, Jones said.
Under Nixons plan, the state would borrow most of the $200 million needed for the project.
Jones said the House committee never removed money from the bill. In fact, he said the bill in question never contained funding for the project.
Instead, the governor asked for a separate bill with the funding. At this time the second supplemental budget bill has not been filed and the committee has taken no action on it.
House Budget Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, announced earlier today that he will unveil the House plan to fund the new hospital on Monday.
Earlier Wednesday, Nixon insisted that the House committee had stripped $14 million out of the bill aimed at fast-tracking the project.
The consensus is overwhelming that if were serious about protecting patients, caregivers and communities, we need to rebuild this dangerous facility, and we need to do it now, Nixon said.
Without the funding, the governor said, the state could not move ahead with the planning and design process for what he called an urgent project.
I urge the members of the House and Senate to right this wrong and put the health and safety of our communities first, Nixon said.
The total cost of the facility is about $200 million. Last year, the General Assembly appropriated $13 million to begin planning and design work for the new hospital.
Said Stream, I have stated publicly and personally to the governor that the House will announce a funding proposal for Fulton State Hospital that will protect the taxpayers and finish the project on a timeline similar to what the governor has proposed.
He said the failing structure is responsible for a huge portion of the states workers compensation claims each year.