County and state legislative leaders say funding for a new Prince George’s County hospital is missing from the governor’s proposed budget.
Now, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat, says he’s giving Republican Gov. Larry Hogan until next week to include the money or he’ll take matters into his own hands.
Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, also a Democrat, are backing a cross-filed bill that would require the state to pay an operating subsidy to help the transition to the new hospital, which will be run by the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).
Officials, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, believe Hogan should have included the $15 million subsidy in both this year’s and last year’s budget according to the terms of a 2011 memorandum of understanding between the state, county and health system to build a new hospital.
“It’s transitional money. It’s absolutely essential to making the project work,” Miller told members of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee at a hearing on his bill Wednesday afternoon.
Baker, a Democrat, expressed frustration with the absence of funding at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“Not including the funding sends a signal that the state is walking away from a five-year partnership, impeding the growth of health care in Prince George’s County and to Marylanders in the southern region of the state,” Baker said. “Again it appears that this is not a priority for the governor.”
But Miller struck a more optimistic tone after the hearing, telling reporters that he believed Hogan was “fully on board now.” But if the governor hasn’t made a firm commitment to provide the funding by next week, “we’re going to move forward this bill,” Miller said.
Hogan’s budget proposal contains $27.5 million in capital funds for the new hospital, and Hogan’s Secretary of Budget & Management, David R. Brinkley, told The Daily Record that the state had already fulfilled its five-year obligation to provide the operating subsidy.
Hogan is open to discussing additional spending on the project, and there is an opportunity to address that need in supplemental budget proposals, Brinkley said.
Lawmakers added $15 million for the operating subsidy to the fiscal 2016 budget last year, but Hogan has not released those funds, Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D-Prince George’s, said at the hearing.
Baker said after the hearing that he hoped Hogan would make an ongoing commitment to support the hospital, as previous administrations had, so “we don’t have to go through this song and dance every year.”
The proposed $650 million Prince George’s Regional Medical Center in Largo will serve as a replacement for the county’s aging hospital in Cheverly.
But Dimensions Healthcare, the nonprofit health system that operates the existing hospital, is depending on the state money, and the capital funding alone isn’t enough, Baker said.
“Dimensions will go under without the subsidies,” Baker told reporters, adding that the county and UMMS had already committed their share of the funding.
About 22,000 residents of Prince George’s County and another 7,000 from southern Maryland go to Washington, D.C., for their medical care each year, Dr. Stephen T. Bartlett, executive vice president of UMMS, told the committee at Wednesday’s hearing.
“For every 5,000 patients that are brought back to Prince George’s County we will generate 800 new jobs. We speculate that within three years we will bring at least 10,000 of those patients back, if not more, creating more than 1,600 new jobs,” Bartlett said.
The new medical center will also anchor economic development around Largo, bringing new offices, restaurants, housing — and new tax dollars for the state, Baker said.
“The governor should declare victory and release the money,” he said.