Wishard Referendum Gains New Opponents, Supporters

Lawmakers Oppose Funding Plan; Former Patients Support It

A referendum to build a new Wishard Memorial Hospital up for a vote next week added some supporters, along with some opponents, on Thursday.

State lawmakers Phil Hinkle and Scott Schneider both announced they will vote against the $750,000 million plan because they said it's too dangerous for property taxpayers, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

They made their announcement outside the downtown Central Library, a project plagued by construction problems and cost overruns that Hinkle and Schneider held up as an example of government's inability to build things on time or budget.

The lawmakers also said that Wishard is depending on unreliable revenue streams to pay for their new hospital, and warned that any overruns that fall on taxpayers will also fall outside the new property tax caps.

"What they're asking the voters and the taxpayers to do is to cosign on a $700 million loan," said Schneider, R-Indianapolis. "And there are risks to that. If there is no risk to the taxpayers, we wouldn't be here, and there wouldn't be anything to vote on on Tuesday."

But supporters of the referendum got some additional help on Thursday, too.

Joe Gallagher was one of 13 people badly burned in a west side paint truck fire six years ago. He credited Wishard's noted burn unit with helping to save his life.

"I was very fortunate to be able to come to Wishard," said Gallagher. "They saved my life. They gave me my kids. I was able to see my kids again and my family."

Indianapolis police Sgt. Dennis Fishburn, speaking on behalf of his son, Officer Jason Fishburn, who was shot in the line of duty last summer and treated at Wishard, also voiced his support along with Gallagher Thursday. Neither men addressed the economic issues.

Schneider and Hinkle said they have no problem endorsing the good works that Wishard does, but believe the financial arrangements to build a new hospital are risky.

The referendum will be the only county-wide issue on Tuesday's ballot.