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HomeNewsLocal newsGov. Bryan: One-Time Medicaid Windfall Should Not Go to Raises

Gov. Bryan: One-Time Medicaid Windfall Should Not Go to Raises

Albert Bryan
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.

Gov. Albert Bryan urged the Legislature in a statement Thursday not to spend any of a one-time $39 million Medicaid reimbursement windfall on recurring expenses like pay raises but instead use it for the hospitals’ utility bills.

Bryan said his administration conferred with senators “on plans to work together to not only reduce the overall debt of our hospitals and other agencies but also to address an issue which not only affects our government’s instrumentalities but every resident in the territory,” and that this was the best use of these one-time funds.

“Simply put, we must pay down the outstanding obligation of the hospitals to stabilize the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority. The Roy Lester Schneider Hospital and the Juan F. Luis Hospital have current debt obligations to the utility in the tens-of-millions,” Bryan said.

“This decision was key in ensuring that we don’t see a tremendous spike in electrical rates at WAPA,” Bryan said.

The government’s use of these funds to pay what is years-long overdue for the use of electricity helps to sustain the operations of the hospital and WAPA, and keeps everyone’s rates from rising higher than what is already proposed, he said.

He said the new Senate majority led by Sen. Novelle Francis (D-STX) is promising raises.

No bill to give raises has been recorded on the Legislature’s website since the recent reorganization of the Legislature. A bill sponsored by the previous majority (33-0072) proposes $4.5 million to help pay for raises promised last year by then-Gov. Kenneth Mapp in the middle of his campaign for reelection.

“The recent moves of the new majority in promising raises to employers by directing a one-time cash infusion to a recurring annual expenditure is a flashback to exactly the kind of political pandering that has created our abysmal financial situation. Raises must be sustained every two weeks; they are a recurring cost. A one-time infusion of Medicaid reimbursement funds will not address this problem. As stated in my State of the Territory Address months ago, JFL Hospital alone has outstanding debts of $54 million to vendors, $13 million of which is payable to WAPA,” Bryan said.

“We clearly understand that employees want their raises and they deserve them, but we must change course, and unlike the past take care of our existing debts before we start creating new ones. The public voted for new, innovative and transparent leadership and a new approach in the Legislature. This is exhibited in the voting numbers, where the newer senators eclipsed the incumbents. Voters have proclaimed that business, as usual, is not acceptable,” he continued.

Legislation to spend that money was introduced early in May, sponsored by Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory, Marvin Blyden, Kenneth Gittens and others. A motion to special-order the bill and amendments to the floor at a recent May 14 session failed on a 7-7 vote, and no final action has been taken on the spending bill.

The federal Medicaid windfall, some $39.5 million, came to the territory after an audit of cost reports for 2011-2013, acting Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal told the committee.

The executive branch wants to use the money immediately to shore up some outstanding debts.

The bill calls for:

– $8.7 million to the Department of Labor to pay outstanding workman’s compensation insurance, with $6.5 million for Schneider Regional Medical Center and $2.2 million for Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital.

– $9.9 million for JFL, to be paid directly to the Water and Power Authority for outstanding bills;

– $4.3 million for Schneider ‘s WAPA bills.

– $2 million to the Department of Health for behavioral programs to be divided equally between the two V.I. districts.

– $3 million to the Waste Management Authority for outstanding vendor payments.

– $5 million for outstanding taxes JFL owes the V.I. government.

– $4.5 million to help pay recent salary increases.

– $2 million split between districts to fund a list of smaller projects and purchases.

For St. Croix, the smaller spending items are:

– $200,000 for mental health services for the Department of Education’s students and staff.

– $125,000 to the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for garbage trucks.

– $105,000 to the Department of Human Services for the purchase of vehicles for the Meals on Wheels program.

– $150,000 to the Legislature for the youth summer employment programs.

– $420,000 to Bethlehem House for retrofitting.

On St. Thomas, the spending items are:

– $200,000 for mental health services for the Department of Education’s students and staff.

– $150,000 for the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for playground equipment for Alvin McBean Ballpark.

– $125,000 for the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for garbage truck and other equipment.

– $150,000 for an as-yet to be staffed Tax Study Commission.

– $120,000 to Eldra Schulterbrandt Facility for two passenger vans.

– $105,000 to the Department of Human Services to purchase two vehicles for the Meals on Wheels program.

– $150,000 to the Legislature for the youth summer employment programs in that district.

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