COUNTY-USC: Wilson Vetoes Bill Requiring Expanded Medical Center
"In a political triumph for the [Los Angeles] Board of Supervisors, Gov. Pete Wilson on Friday vetoed legislation that would have deprived Los Angeles County of $225 million in construction funds for a new County-USC Medical Center if the supervisors did not bow to state lawmakers' demands that they build a bigger hospital," the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Hilda Solis (D-El Monte), would have required the county to build a 750- bed facility to replace the aging and earthquake-damaged County-USC, instead of the 600-bed replacement approved by the supervisors. Wilson noted that "he was declining to sign the bill because the supervisors had determined that only 600 beds were necessary ... Therefore ... it would be 'inappropriate' to use state and federal funds to 'build a facility which exceeds expected need.'" County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said, "This was a budget-busting mandate, and the veto by Gov. Wilson is for responsible medical care and local control." Despite supervisors' claims that the county cannot fund a larger facility, Solis said that the growing Los Angeles population justifies building a larger facility, and the governor's decision will "shortchange the people."
The Next Act
However, the Times reports that the future of the $225 million in funding for the new facility contained in the vetoed bill is still up in the air. The coalition of state lawmakers that introduced the bill "can either agree to give the supervisors the $225 million in funds sometime in the next year, or continue to stall the legislation that would make the funds available." The supervisors are scheduled to vote Sept. 15 "to proceed with plans to build the 600- bed facility if the state coalition agrees to free up the $225 million." If the money is not released, Antonovich said, the supervisors "will vote to build a 500-bed facility, and blame the loss of the 100 beds on the lack of state funding" (Meyer/Vanzi, 8/22).