House Republicans accuse Governor Jay Nixon (D) of turning the effort to replace the state’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital into a “political football.”
Nixon spoke to mental health advocates today at the Capitol that the House Budget Committee chaired by Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) voted to “strip funding for the Fulton State Hospital from the Supplemental Budget.”
Nixon says the Committee has put patients and caregivers at Fulton at risk.
“Without these resources in the budget we will be unable to move forward with the planning and design process for this urgent project.”
The state legislature appropriated $13-million for the design and planning of a new facility at Fulton to begin. Nixon withheld $11-million of that until December.
Stream says the Governor’s assessment that the committee “stripped” Fulton funding from a bill surprised him and called it a “mischaracterization.”
Stream says no vote was taken on funding for Fulton. He explains, the Governor proposed a supplemental budget that included $14-million dollars that would have been a payment on debt from appropriation bonds as part of the Governor’s plan to pay for Fulton unveiled in December.
Stream has told reporters before including in this Missourinet story that it was unlikely that $14-million would be approved because the legislature did not perceive that it is an emergency to appropriate that money now.
“They told us in testimony that there would be no dirt turned until next spring,” says Stream of testimony from the Office of Administration to his Budget Committee. “That’s plenty of time for us to do something this session.”
“It’s unfortunate that he used [the term ‘stripped’] because he worked in the legislature. He knows the process,” says Stream of Nixon. “Clearly if we had voted on a bill that we had an amendment to take it out, or if I had submitted a substitute bill … that left it out, then I could be accused of either stripping it out or leaving it out. We did none of that.”
Stream says the legislature is serious about funding the process this year, and hours after Nixon’s comments and subsequent statement, Stream released a statement of his own saying that he would announce his plan on Monday for paying for a new state mental hospital at Fulton.
Stream wouldn’t tell reporters Wednesday evening what that plan is, and says he’s still weighing three options.
“We’re leaning heavily toward one particular plan,” Stream says. “We know that we have three plans out there that we could use; the general obligation bonds, the revenue bonds, which is the Governor’s plan, and a plan that would fund it over 2 or 3 years (as an appropriation).”
Stream says he met personally with the Governor three weeks ago and told him that the legislature was serious about funding a new Fulton hospital and that those three options were all being considered.
“He didn’t argue with me,” says Stream.
Representative Jeanie Riddle’s (R-Mokane) District includes Fulton. She has advocated for a replacement of that hospital through her six years in the legislature.
She says the issue has been made a “political football” by Nixon’s statement because lawmakers didn’t accept his plan for funding a new facility.
“To lead people to believe that it was stripped out in a vote and the Fulton State Hospital is not going to be built is highly frustrating,” Riddle told Missourinet. “The General Assembly … both the House and the Senate … plan to move forward with building and funding this facility in a timely manner.”