MUSC Children's Hospital, Boeing aeronautics gets funding in House budget

VIDEO: Lawmakers kill funding for MUSC children's hospital in Charleston
Published: Mar. 12, 2015 at 9:56 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2015 at 2:46 AM EDT
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Funding for a new children's hospital in Charleston and a Boeing aeronautics facility received funding from the House budget which passed Thursday night, according to lawmakers.

Rep. Peter McCoy, Jr. said MUSC children's hospital will receive $25 million dollars, and Boeing's worker training facility will get $20 million.

The budget now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers can make tweaks, including reviving the full bonds bill. But the budget must also go to the Governor's desk, and Gov. Nikki Haley said she would veto any bonds package.

The funding for these projects follows on the heels of a debate between lawmakers on Thursday in which they considered two bonds packages, a $509 million version and a $275 million alternate, which were both rejected.

The original $509 million bill would have funded the full down payment for MUSC's hospital of $50 million.

MUSC spokesperson Heather Woolwine said the hospital was watching and waiting to see what happened in Columbia.

More than 40 percent of the patients at the children's hospital come from outside the Tri-County and Woolwine said she believes lawmakers understand a new hospital will serve the state and not just the Lowcountry.

Rep. Leon Stavrinakis stressed late Thursday after the first bonds bill was killed the budget process was not complete.

"There are other ways to fund MUSC besides a bond bill," he said.

The hospital, along with other projects for higher education and law enforcement, were salvaged from the bonds bill and paid for with money the state received from recent lawsuits.

Republican lawmakers say this money will get MUSC what it needs for the hospital, but Democrats say it's not enough.

"Right now, they're just limited on space," Republican Rep. Bruce Bannister of Greenville said. "They got the doctors. They got the nurses. They have the technology. They don't have the room."

"It is better than nothing, but they are our premiere hospital in the state system," Democrat Rep. Todd Rutherford, the House Minority Leader, said. "They do a fantastic job, and any time you can help out little children, you do so."

The original $509 million bonds bill has been a point of conflict with lawmakers all week, culminating in an extremely tense session late Thursday afternoon.

One lawmaker said he's never seen a session in more turmoil. Lawmakers have been darting back and forth throughout the chamber, trying to reach a compromise after four days of rising tensions.

Some lawmakers say the bonds package has been dead for quite some time, and that a definitive vote to kill the bill would mark a win for Haley, who has vehemently opposed the package, saying it would increase the state's debt, and be a burden on taxpayers.

Stavrinakis said the bill would not have increased the state's debt or required a tax increase.

The real fight on the bonds package started last night with jabs traded between Haley and Rutherford.

Rutherford called the governor a hypocrite and a narcissist. Thursday, he continued that line of attack, accusing the governor of playing petty politics in trying to kill the bonds package, which would also set aside $20 million set for MUSC's telemedicine mission, where specialists video conference with patients around the world; as well as projects like technical college training.

Governor Haley's office responded, calling Rutherford's comments "hate speech."

Some lawmakers complained they can't do their jobs with the amount of back and forth between Haley and the House taking place.

"We're either going to have a bond or we're not. We're either going to take care of business, or we're not. So let's get serious," Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard said. "I mean you got someone downstairs tweeting all over the country, trying to hang this thing out as a joke. We're trying to do business of the people, and now I have to hear you try to intercede."

The move to kill the original bonds package angered many Democratic lawmakers. Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter went so far as to call some representatives spineless.

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