By District 89 Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington
After a whirlwind campaign and jumping into the legislative process already in full swing, I am just starting to feel comfortable. I want to thank Janet Mills, Walter Gooley and Tom Saviello for helping to bring me up to speed and answering any questions that I have.
Whatever our view of the recent stimulus package, the time for arguing is over as it has passed and is on the way. Now the issue becomes how well we use this money. I believe we should only use these funds on one-time spending and not to use it as a band-aid measure to patch up the current budget crisis. The next time the state goes through the budget process, this stimulus money will no longer be there and will be back in crisis again. The state needs to live within its means.
The first bill I have introduced is to pay off the total amount of money owed to our hospitals by the state with some of the stimulus package we are to receive. The amount owed goes back to ’05-’06 and is currently over $400 million, with FMH being owed $12 million, of which the state’s share is a third.
Once this is paid, the state will receive the matching two-thirds from the federal government. Currently the Governor’s Office has agreed to pay for the years ’05-’06 in writing and a verbal commitment for ’07. My bill proposes to pay off all debt through ’08-’09. If we do not use a portion of this package to bring our hospital bills up to date we may never have the chance again.
Currently hospitals around the state are laying people off and having to run lines of credit just to pay their bills and meet payroll. With my plan, we will, in effect, triple our money because it will kick in another two-thirds owed by the federal government. This would boost the stimulus package by bringing in another $266 million and could help create more jobs for the state and our area.
In Franklin County alone, FMH employs both directly and indirectly hundreds of people and the failure of the state to pay its bills and honor its agreements threatens many rural hospitals. It is time for the state to pay its bills like the rest of us have to do and the legislation I have introduced will, if successful, accomplish just that.