State leaders positive about public health funding debate, despite lawmakers balking at price tag
State leaders want lawmakers to make a significant investment in improving public health in the 2023 session.
Yet even as some Republican legislative leaders are already balking at the price tag, Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box say they’re happy with how conversations are going.
The governor’s Public Health Commission recommended spending $240 million more a year on the public health system. Box said she’s not surprised lawmakers are hesitating when hearing that number.
“But we have fallen very, very behind," Box said. "And in order to try to get back on an even playing field, we really need to invest some significant money.”
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Holcomb stresses that the proposal relies on local buy-in – public health departments have to agree to scale up their efforts if they take the increased funding.
“This is in an effort to support that – government closer to you – and you’ve got to be involved from a local perspective, as well, and hold them accountable,” Holcomb said.
Box's latest proposal to lawmakers would see the state increase public health funding by $120 million in the first year of the new budget and $227 million in the second year.
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Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chair Travis Holdman (R-Markle) said recently he has an idea for where lawmakers might find the money for such an increase: not-for-profit hospitals.
"Hospitals have continued to increase their unrestricted investment accounts on Wall Street every year," Holdman said. "What are they doing to return the community benefit that they pledged to provide because of their not-for-profit status ... what are the things that can be done from a public service standpoint, instead of just putting their name on a stadium or their name on the local YMCA?"
The budget-writing session begins in January.
Contact reporter Brandon at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.