Let's recap. During the special legislative session to deal with the budget, lobbyists for Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County had inserted into the budget language that would allow HHC-MC to submit a referendum question in a special election this November for the purpose of borrowing money to build a new Wishard Hospital. Originally, HHC-MC's lobbyists tried to do it through a simple petition but their efforts were rejected by Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Luke Kenley who insisted that HHC-MC at least submit the question to the voters regarding borrowing money for the hospital.
HHC-MC, however, had other ideas. Instead HHC-MC wrote a referendum question that didn't mention a new hospital or how much the he municipal corporation intended to borrow money to pay for the project. Below is the referendum question:
"Shall the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana, issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance safe, efficient and functional facilities for the Wishard Hospital project:Over the past few months Matt Gutwin, President and CEO of HHC-MC and Dr. Lisa Harris, CEO of Wishard have been making the rounds assuring anyone who would listen that the hospital would not be paid for with tax dollars.
1. to allow Wishard to provide access to care for all residents of Marion County, including people who are seniors, poor uninsured or vulnerable regardless of their ability to pay; and
2. to allow Wishard to provide specialized care, including to victims suffering from traumatic injuries or severe burns; and
3. to allow Wishard to work with colleges and universities including Indiana University School of Medicine, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Purdue School of Pharmacy, to teach future doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in Indiana?"
So much for those promises. In a resolution adopted today by its Board, HHC-MC indicated that it would be borrowing up to $703 million dollars and that "all or any portion" of the $703 million in bonds would be paid for with property taxes. Additionally, according to the resolution, HHC-MC isn't floating the bonds at all. Rather the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority will be borrowing the money and will lease the facility back to HHC-MC. Since HHC-MC is a corporation and I don't believe the Building Authority is, that would mean taxpayers would not at least enjoy the protection of HHC-MC's corporate status. In the face of a financial meltdown, at least in theory, HHC-MC could declare municipal bankruptcy and have legal obligations to repay the bonds discharged. For the Building Authority to do that, the entire City of Indianapolis would have to declare bankruptcy.
Is anyone really surprised that HHC-MC reneged on its promise and intends to pay for the new hospital with property taxes?
See Advance Indiana's last blog post on the issue by clicking here.