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Hospital center, USM-H spared in new cuts

November 18, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Md. board OK's additional $364M in spending cuts

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A list of $364 million in state budget cuts made Wednesday by the Board of Public Works didn't show specific losses in Washington County.

Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown was mentioned only in connection with $400,000 in state savings, of which about $154,000 would come from the general fund.

The state expects to pare down Medicaid payments by moving four patients from private hospitals to the hospital center, said Jim Johnson, deputy secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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In previous rounds of budget cuts, the hospital center lost about $384,000 in July and about $535,000 in October 2008.

"We are getting to a point (where) it's very tough to operate," center CEO Cindy Pellegrino said in August.

The University System of Maryland at Hagerstown and other campuses appeared to escape specific cuts Wednesday.

But USM's main office in Adelphi, Md., posted a statement Wednesday saying it must transfer $25 million from its fund balance to the state's general fund.

Four Washington County state representatives hadn't heard of specific cuts as of Wednesday afternoon.

One of them, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said he favors dipping into the fund balance, even if it means a lower bond rating.

While touring Hagerstown on Wednesday, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said $25 million was taken from the Rainy Day Fund, leaving 5 percent of the general fund. The state's AAA bond rating is intact, he said.

Busch said the new cuts reflect state priorities: K-12 education remains fully funded; there were no new cuts to police and community colleges; and local governments suffered few cuts.

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