Glad to get that big debt off our backs

All Mainers should stand a bit taller today knowing we have finally paid off some big debts we have been lugging around for a long time.

Gov. Paul LePage visited Central Maine Medical Center on Wednesday to deliver an oversized Publishers Clearing House-style check for $43.4 million.

There should be no doubt that the governor said he was going to do this, and he now has. Mission accomplished. Campaign promise made and kept.

In total, Maine paid back 39 hospitals $490 million for MaineCare services that had accrued since the mid-2000s.

Maine will pay back $183 million, which will trigger $307 million in federal matching money for those hospitals.

It's embarrassing that we ever got into the position of owing this much money, despite a state Constitution that technically forbids the state from taking on operating debt.

No private borrower would have ever accepted such lousy terms, in essence: Maybe we'll pay you. Some day. When we get around to it. Oh, and no interest offered.

The Legislature had been nibbling away at the debt for several years, but the actual repayment would have taken many more years.

Full repayment was the right thing to do, and Gov. Paul LePage made it happen.

Good on him.

But let's not be naive

Now that we have given credit where credit is due, this much must also be said:

Somewhere in the past year or so, the governor opened a drawer in his desk and found a considerable inheritance.

The state's once-a-decade bonanza was about to hit, and on his watch. The previous liquor-sales contract would expire in a few years and a lot more money would suddenly become available.

Gov. John Baldacci got moderate advantage about a decade ago by essentially selling the state's liquor operations to a Wall Street firm for a one-time payout and a slice of future revenue growth.

Gov. LePage has, we believe, made better use of the opportunity and structured a deal that will guarantee Maine more revenue over the next decade, plus allow for paying back the hospitals.

Good work, but the availability of this money at this moment was pretty much a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Beyond that, a couple of gripes:

St. Mary's Medical Center was owed $23.7 million that will now be paid. Yet the governor had no big check for that hospital.

St. Mary's sent a person to Augusta to pick up their check.

The governor could have made this a joint ceremony in Lewiston and made a bigger splash for himself.

What's the grudge?

Just a wild guess here, but St. Mary's CEO Lee Myles confronted the Big Guy during a public hearing over the governor's proposed Medicaid cuts in January of 2012.

Myles attended a public hearing in Lewiston and, among other things, told the governor that cutting Medicaid "isn't just a fiscal issue. It's a moral issue."

That was a stand-up moment for Myles, and demonstrated how St. Mary's has maintained the values of the nuns who started the first hospital here, largely to meet the needs of poor immigrants, back 1888.

But that awkward moment may also explain why CMMC has been the governor's go-to-hospital for public presentations ever since.

Speaking of awkward . . .

The governor had said this about the hospital repayment last week: "I don't care who did it, just that it gets done. And frankly, if the Democrats want to take credit, go right ahead, fine with me."

Yes. Yes. Got it, Guv.

But as a photo was about to be taken Wednesday of the check-passing moment, a member of the governor's entourage noticed state Rep. Peggy Rotundo in the background of the photo talking to CMMC workers. The aide quietly expressed concern that Rotundo might accidentally appear in the photo.

The political crisis was averted when Rotundo naturally worked her way out of the photo, presumably before they would have . . .

Well, you saw what happened to the goofy Uncle Sam protester with the big fake check.

The final photo was picture perfect — no Democratic legislators in sight.

This moment was, to be sure, all about Paul LePage taking full credit.

What do you think of this story?

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Comments

MICHAEL LEMAY's picture

It does matter!

Well, I have to respectfully disagree. It does matter. It is all part of why our healthcare costs are so ridiculously high and growing by leaps and bounds. It's not about paying the bills, it's about what makes those bills so exorbitant.

MICHAEL LEMAY's picture

It would be interesting to

It would be interesting to see how much of these payments goes to administrative salaries and expenses while the cutbacks, layoffs, and freezes continue for the actual healthcare workers.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

It really doesn't matter

It really doesn't matter Michael. The State purchased services, it needs to pay its bill. It is a simple concept in our economy, a concept that those who ran up the bill in the first place did not comprehend; who was that?

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

What about the States other debt?

Great ,the hospitals (corporations) were paid the millions they were owed since 2009. How about the millions owed to the people of Maine in the Maine State retirement system for over 20 years !!! Oh yes, Maine defaulted on that debt - refused to pay and took money from all the retirees ,oh, yes, we were just the people of Maine not a corporation--so not paying the bill - freezing COLAs and blaming the people in the system who paid every cent they owed is WONDEFUL to the Governor and many Republicans . Where is the story about Maine defaulting on the debt owed to the retirees ??

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Well, that is what you get

Well, that is what you get when the State spends irresponsibly - unpaid bills.

Jason Theriault's picture

No, see the problem is

No, see the problem is that as part of one of the biggest unions in the State, you are the enemy. Just like Public Schools.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Whoever wrote this "Our View" garbage

is a sniveling little coward and a slithering snake in the grass. The arguments made against Lepage are speculative at best and bordering on slander. If you were to disrespect a man on the street like this you'd be in for a good old fashioned @$$ kicking.

Jason Theriault's picture

No it isn't

These comments are not even close to slander. And you think these are fighting words?

FRANK EARLEY's picture

How is this helping?????????

What has the Governor actually accomplished for us???????

RONALD RIML's picture

Got Maine a lot of airtime on main stream media

displaying what a (fill in the blank) he is......

MARK GRAVEL's picture

What did LePage accomplish?

What did LePage accomplish? He paid your bills.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

He didn't pay any of my bills..........

I make sure of that..............

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That is the first thing you

That is the first thing you ever said that I believe, and I bet you work hard at it too. Shameful that there is so much greed.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Come on now..........

There's lots of things I say that are somewhat believable..............

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Not really.

Not really.

 's picture

If he would pay...

...what the state has owed the schools, all of our property taxes would go down. But, our course, he likes to grandstand.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Political grandstanding!

Watching the Guv. toot is own horn about the only constructive thing that's happened since he took office was sickening. Enough said.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Watching Al get sick is

Watching Al get sick is entertaining!

AL PELLETIER's picture

Thanks Gravel

Three weeks ago I spent five days at Stephen's Memorial Hospital with acute pancreatitis and damned near died. I don't find your post amusing.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You are welcome :-)

You are welcome :-)

Robert McQueeney's picture

The governor has done a good thing

I am glad he has found a way to pay the state's bills and actually done so. Good on him.

Would it really kill you to acknowledge he has done well here, and leave it at that?

RONALD RIML's picture

We Taxpayers paid Maine's Bills

Controller Terry Brann cut the checks......

You just couldn't get thru

You just couldn't get thru just once without slamming the Governor, could you?. How hard it must have been to give him credit for this acomplishment.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That is the liberal way -

That is the liberal way - everything R is bad.

The great Dr. Savage says liberalism is a mental disorder.

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