- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ANNAPOLIS | Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller gave Gov. Larry Hogan an ultimatum Wednesday: Release money for Prince George’s Hospital Center by next week or else the legislature will force him to.

Mr. Hogan is holding the money, which was included in last year’s budget, calling for a tightening in spending. The hospital funds were not included in this year’s $42.3 billion budget.

Mr. Miller, a Democrat who represents part of Prince George’s County, said the money is critical to keep the hospital afloat while a state-of-the-art facility is built in Largo.

“His aides talked to me earlier today and they’re going to let me know something by next week. And if by next week, we don’t have a full commitment to fully make this memorandum of understanding between the county, the state and the University of Maryland Medical Shock Trauma Center, we’re going to move forward with this bill,” Mr. Miller said after a hearing on his bill that would force the money to be spent.

The state had agreed in 2011 to provide $15 million annually to Dimensions Healthcare, which runs the current hospital, to aid in the transition to the new facility. But the agreement, which was negotiated by former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, expired after Mr. Hogan was sworn in.

Democrats say that Mr. Hogan’s tight grasp on the money could threaten the construction of the facility, which they are counting on to improve health care in the region.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held a hearing on Mr. Miller’s bill Wednesday afternoon, but the senator asked that a vote be put off until next week while his office continues negotiating with the Republican governor.

Should those talks fail, the committee would vote on it, and state Sen. Richard Madaleno, Montgomery County Democrat, said it has “overwhelming” support.

“This is such an important issue, and with the Senate president behind it, I give it very good odds,” said Mr. Madaleno, the commitee’s vice chairman.

Dr. Stephen Bartlett, chief surgeon of the University of Maryland Medical System, who testified on behalf of Mr. Miller’s bill, said the project would be an economic boon for the state. He said the new hospital would lure upwards of 10,000 new patients a year and create 1,600 new jobs within three years of being built.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III said it should be a no-brainer for Mr. Hogan to release the money.

“I don’t understand why the governor doesn’t just declare victory on this,” he said. “Not only are we going to provide quality health care throughout the southern region of the state, but we’re putting it on a Metro line. This is going to be the catalyst for one of the biggest development projects in Prince George’s County, creating thousands of jobs in that area.”

He cited doctor’s offices, medical suppliers and redevelopment around the Largo area that would be spurred by the new hospital.

A spokesperson for Mr. Hogan said the county already receives “record high” levels of funding, with $1.34 billion this year.

But Mr. Baker was adamant that the county should receive the $15 million.

“You can’t come back to me and tell me how much I get,” he said. “It’s our money. It’s our tax dollars.”

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