Sen. Kissel Opposes State Budget; Says it Could Put Johnson Memorial Hospital on Life Support []

June 6, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Reminder News

Legislators, Johnson Memorial plead to protect hospital funding

With only days before the passage of a new state budget, administrators from Johnson Memorial Hospital pleaded with their representatives in the legislature and the governor to protect the community hospital from huge proposed cuts in aid.

On May 23, state representatives Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers) and Christopher Davis (R-Ellington), and state senators John A. Kissel (R-Enfield) and Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford) held a press conference in which they pledged their support to the hospital, its nearly 500 employees, and the surrounding communities the hospital serves.

“The executive director [of Johnson Memorial] came to us with many employees expressing their concerns,” said Kissel. “It’s not just JMMC. All hospitals in Connecticut got hit with the budget compromise several months ago, and now they’re getting hit again. So many things are up in the air for hospitals.”

“The proposed budget, if enacted, would essentially put Johnson Memorial on life support,” said Kissel. He urged Connecticut residents to call their elected officials and the governor to protect hospital funding.

Guglielmo expressed similar concerns. “This will be a big hit on community hospitals,” said Guglielmo, who served years ago on the board at Johnson Memorial. “These hospitals are coming up with $550 million less in two years. Most hospitals operate close to the bone. When I was on the board, I felt they ran a pretty tight ship.”

“I know the media has been focusing on hospital [executive] salaries, and while it’s a great issue to get people worked up about, even if they were cut in half, it won’t solve the problem,” said Guglielmo.

Guglielmo said community hospitals like Johnson Memorial Medical Center, Rockville Hospital, and Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam don’t always have the economy of scale advantage that their larger counterparts receive. Additionally, as JMMC is the largest employer in Stafford, the proposed cuts in the budget would take a toll on the local economy, he said.

“Where we are is not sustainable [in the state budget]. We’re in a hole and we’re still bonding for operating expenses, going forward with huge projects for things like a busway. Will that work? Is it viable?” Guglielmo said.

Guglielmo said Connecticut has a per-capita debt that is among the worst states in the nation. He took issue with large tax breaks for corporations, such as United Technologies, ESPN and Cabela’s. “ESPN has gotten at least $100 million in tax deductions over the last 10 years. This kind of stuff never works. We don’t have the ability as a state to audit this stuff and I don’t like the philosophy of [the state] picking winners,” he said. With regard to Cabela’s, he said the sporting goods superstore in East Hartford received $39 million in tax breaks and questioned the fairness of requiring a small sporting goods store like Farrs in Manchester having to pay taxes that subsidizes its competitor. As a state, Guglielmo said Connecticut needs to “stick with the basics” and focus its efforts on protecting public health, safety, necessary infrastructure and education.

Despite their concerns, the proposed budget passed 95 to 48 along party lines in the House and narrowly passed in the Senate. In a June 3 press release, Guglielmo said the approved budget slashes funding for community hospitals. “Johnson Memorial Hospital will lose $1,272,157, Rockville Hospital will lose $1,616,332 and Manchester Hospital all part of the Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) will lose $7,800,357.”

Prior to the House and Senate votes, Kissel said if funding was cut, he expected they will be putting forth amendments to raise the issues about the impacts the votes would have on area hospitals.