Reeves indicates more line-item appropriation vetoes could be forthcoming.
Late Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves announced via social media that he had partially vetoed Senate Bill 3010, an appropriation bill for the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).
Reeves did not veto the entire bill, choosing only to veto Section 24, lines 153-214 in SB 3010.
The line-item veto power of the Governor pertaining to appropriation bills has been upheld by the state Supreme Court in recent years. In 2020, Speaker Philip Gunn challenged the Governor’s authority to take such an action. A lower court ruled in Gunn’s favor, but the case went to the state Supreme Court where the Justices ultimately ruled in Reeves’ favor.
In his message, Governor Reeves indicates that this UMMC line-item appropriation veto will be the first of a few to be rolled out in the days ahead.
Tuesday’s veto pertains to $50 million appropriated from the State Treasury to the credit of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund for UMMC. The stated purpose was for the completion of capital improvements to the patient care facilities and operating suites of the Adult Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center as allowable under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Governor Reeves took issue with the special earmark.
“Today I vetoed a $50 million set aside in a special earmark for facility improvements in UMMC’s adult hospital building. I think it’s important to give clarity on why I did,” Reeves wrote on Facebook.
The Governor says that UMMC’s teaching center is largely funded by the state, yet the hospital is not.
“They are responsible for their own operational budget—just like other hospitals. They do receive certain competitive advantages that are not afforded to other hospitals and physician groups around Mississippi, such as waivers of ‘certificate of need’ requirements,” Reeves noted, adding, “There is little reason that Mississippi taxpayers should radically increase the commitment to further subsidize the operations of UMMC to the detriment of competitors.”
Reeves states that UMMC currently has enough money to “willingly turn away patients on private insurance, clearly indicating that they have no need for the state to underwrite their ambitious building/spending goals.”
With all the health care challenges in the state, Governor Reeves says he does not think that more building improvements are the best expenditure of $50 million of the people’s money.
“That money would be better served in one of the programs that I recently signed to incentivize more training around the state for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals,” the Governor writes. “After all, throughout COVID, we always had adequate bed capacity for patients. The central challenge was always the hospitals’ inability to properly staff the beds.”
Governor Reeves concludes his social media message by saying it is important to ensure that “your money” is invested wisely.
“This is the first of several spending vetoes that we will share and answer questions on in the coming days,” Reeves concluded, indicating that more line-item vetoes could be on the way.