Legislature majority questions whether time is right for ECMC borrowing $100M

Mar 10, 2017

With the uncertainty in the health care industry over Obamacare, the majority leader of the Erie County Legislature says this is not the time for Erie County Medical Center to be borrowing $100 million.

The saga of the hospital borrowing has been going on for months, as the Grider Street facility plans to pay for a major new emergency room and replacement of many of the mechanical operations that keep the building operating.

Credit File photo

It has not been easy. The Legislature would not let county credit be used, with the county getting a slice. Now, the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority says it is willing to arrange the loan.

That brought a demand from the Legislature's Majority Caucus that ECFSA control board leaders come in and explain why. Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo says the control board has shifted from openness to secrecy.

"Especially in light of the letter that was sent in 2012, in July of 2012 on the exact same issue, on a bond resolution where there was a declaration of need," Lorigo said. "The control board said they were ready, willing and able to come speak publicly at either a caucus, committee meeting or full session and the change in policy is disappointing."

Lorigo says the uncertainty about finances in healthcare means this might be a bad time to borrow the cash.

"It figures in a lot, which is one of the reasons why I don't think we should be rushing into anything on this," he said. "We don't know what's going to happen with our IGT obligations, whether they are going to continue to grow, whether they are going to skyrocket exponentially or they're going to be eliminated. So, until we have those answers, rushing this through is foolish."

Lorigo says the hospital has options of its own.

Credit WBFO's Eileen Buckley

"ECMC has said publicly they plan to go forward with the project, regardless of what happens with the county Legislature, so, at this point, it's out of my hands what they do," he said. "And, until the ECFSA comes in here and speaks with us about their proposal, nothing is going to happen."

Lorigo says the hospital can borrow through agencies like the New York State Dormitory Authority. However, if it wants to borrow through the control board, that has to be approved by the Legislature and that is why legislators want a committee hearing of the issue.