LePage vows to veto DHHS supplemental budget

Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2012 in News

LePage vows to veto DHHS supplemental budget

by Gina Hamilton

AUGUSTA — On Monday, Gov. Paul LePage announced that he would veto the latest budget plan currently under consideration by the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

“I was presented a plan last Thursday. I told the Appropriations chairs that I would not sign nor veto that proposal. However, their plan has drastically changed since then. The latest proposal eliminates nearly all of the structural changes that are necessary to make our welfare system affordable and sustainable," he said Monday afternoon.

Specifically, LePage was upset that the committee was no longer considering the elimination of all MaineCare funds for childless adults. Furthermore, he said that the budget would require a federal waiver. LePage has been criticized in recent weeks for requesting three waivers from the federal government to eliminate some categories of service under MaineCare, and was informed last week that he was unlikely to receive the waivers. 

LePage accused the Republican-led committee of "an abdication of their responsibility to the Maine people." Although the Republicans are in the majority and serve as chairs of the Appropriations Committee, LePage singled out Democrats for "sitting on their hands" since Thanksgiving "because they don't want to fix welfare."

Maine Senate and House Democratic leaders said the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will continue work to find alternative solutions to resolve the immediate shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services budget despite threats from the governor to veto the budget. 

They said lawmakers will ignore the veto threat and do what is best for Maine people.

“Democrats and Republicans have been working around the clock to find alternative solutions to the governor’s budget and will continue to do so,” said Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, the Senate Democratic leader. “We are down here trying to figure out how to keep the lights on without taking away health care from thousands of sick people, increasing health-insurance costs for all Maine people, or cutting thousands of health-care jobs.”

In December, LePage proposed cutting 65,000 patients from MaineCare, Maine's Medicaid program. Since then, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has been working toward solving the shortfall while providing essential services. They say that the governor's repeated public commentary and attempts to influence the legislative process have not been helpful.

“The governor is meddling, while we are busy cleaning up his mess,” said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic leader. “The governor’s idea of health care for our most vulnerable is handing out a Band-Aid and a toothbrush and sending them into the streets. He’d like us to rubber stamp his shift-and-shaft budget proposal and we’re not going to do it — no matter how many press conferences he holds.”

Democrats and Republicans are close to finding agreement on a proposal to resolve the immediate shortfall. Lawmakers took numerous votes on alternative savings initiatives over the weekend, including a proposal to better manage the use of opiate drugs for MaineCare patients; modifications and redesigns of some of the MaineCare optional services; a reduction and redesign of the Developmental Services Waiver in MaineCare; and a rate reduction for services provided by methadone clinics.

Only $6.5 million of the $220 million shortfall in 2012 is due to increased enrollment, and expected increased enrollment in 2013 will account for only $7.9 million. 

****UPDATE****

At 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the Appropriations Committee unanimously passed the budget that LePage has threatened to veto. 

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