Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) has released plans to fund construction of a new state psychiatric hospital in Fulton.
Nixon says his state budget for the next fiscal year (FY 2015) will include a bond issue designed to generate roughly $200 million to help cover the projected $211 million price tag.
"With interest rates still at historic lows, this bond proposal is a fiscally responsible and measured approach that will insure a new facility can be built that is safe, secure, and conducive to healing," Nixon told media and hospital officials at a press conference Monday at the facility.
The Governor today also released $11 million earmarked for the design phase of the new Fulton State Hospital. It opened in 1851 and is the oldest state mental hospital west of the Mississippi River. FSH also houses the Biggs Forensic Center, the only maximum security psychiatric facility in Missouri.
"(Fulton State Hospital's) wards are cramped, loud, and deteriorating, leading to injuries among staff and patients," Nixon said. "In fact, based on workers' compensation costs, it's far more dangerous to work here at Fulton than any (Missouri) Department of Corrections facility."
The Governor is seeking to use a so-called appropriations bond, which he says would not require voter approval. But long-time House Member Chris Kelly (D, Columbia) disagrees.
"First thing is, what is an appropriation bond? It's a creature that doesn't exist in our law," Kelly said. "The Constitution of Missouri sets out a way for the state to borrow (money), and it includes allowing the people to make that decision, not the Governor, not the legislature."
Earlier this year, Kelly and House Speaker Tim Jones (R, Eureka) co-sponsored a resolution that would have required voter approval for issuing more than a billion dollars in bonds for numerous state building projects, and that included brand-new facilities for Fulton State Hospital. Kelly says he plans to sponsor similar legislation during the 2014 regular session, which begins next month.
Fulton State Hospital is operated by the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
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