House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden said he’s not okay with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration suspending about $141 million in payments to hospitals.
“I think all of our members, as well, are calling on OPM [Office of Policy and Management] to release those funds as quickly as possible,” Sharkey said. “It was not what we negotiated.”
Sharkey said last week that they fought for the funds to be included in budget revisions they did during a special session in December.
Malloy administration Budget Director Ben Barnes informed the hospitals that it’s unlikely they will receive the rest of the supplemental payments they were scheduled to receive this year as the state’s revenue picture continues to deteriorate.
“Withholding them is unacceptable,” Sharkey said Friday during a press conference outside the House chamber.
A spokesman for Malloy asked if Sharkey proposed any spending cuts to make up the difference.
“What alternative cuts to social programs are being proposed to offset any restoration of these funds?” Chris McClure, a Malloy spokesman, said.
The state, according to the latest numbers from the Office of Fiscal Analysis, is facing a $1.2 billion deficit over the next 18 months.
But Sharkey said that can’t be part of the solution for this year.
“Those commitments have been made,” Sharkey said. “The governor’s always said that he will honor the agreement that we reached in December.”
Sharkey said the hospital funding was something the Democrats fought very hard for and they continue to hold out hope that the governor will honor that commitment.
The NAACP is also weighing on the matter and joining a growing call to get the administration to release the payments.
“These sweeping, one-dimensional announcements that the state we will cut and or suspend hospital payments sound, based on the rational frequently cited, as if they are logical approaches to the state’s budget crisis,” James Rawlings, health chair for the Connecticut State Conference of Branches of the NAACP, said.
Rawlings said these cuts will “negatively and disproportionately impact the quality of life of vulnerable woman and children in our state at a minimum.”
Sharkey opined that withholding the payments could be a “liability” for the state. He said there are already lawsuit being contemplated over the state’s funding of hospitals.
In December, the Connecticut Hospital Association filed letters with the Departments of Social Services and Revenue Services asking “whether the General Assembly unconstitutionally delegated the setting of the rate and base year of the Hospital’s Tax to the Department of Social Services in violation of the Connecticut Constitution?” It also asked whether the methodology outlined by DSS is enforceable and whether it violates the constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
The request for a declaratory ruling on the tax is likely the first step toward potential legal action against the state.
Sharkey said they will continue to put public pressure on the administration to release the funds.
The Malloy administration maintained that the funding has been suspended as the state deals with the budget deficit.
The hospitals have been paid two-fifths of the state share of the inpatient supplemental pool and four-sevenths of the state share of the small hospital pool, which amounts to about $22.4 million. Those payments, the first of which was due last summer, weren’t made until February 2016.
“You cannot be for all things, all the time,” McClure said. “As the governor has said repeatedly, if there are concrete ideas that are better, they should be put on the table.”