LePage Administration proposes almost $34 million in budget cuts

AUGUSTA — Maine schools and municipalities, as well as a range of other programs across state government including a childhood immunization program, will bear the brunt of more than $33 million in new cuts recommended on Monday by the LePage administration.

Three months of work to propose the cuts to the state budget this year and next culminated late Monday in the delivery of a report to the Legislature by LePage’s new Office of Policy and Management. Former Republican Sen. Richard Rosen of Bucksport, who leads the office along with former Attorney General William Schneider and state economist Amanda Rector, is scheduled to formally present the 115-page report — which also includes more than 70 pages of appendices — to the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Many of the initiatives are measures that have been attempted before but failed to gain legislative approval.

The proposed spending reductions are the result of language in the biennial budget bill enacted in June that calls for the Office of Policy and Management to find $33,750,000 in cuts in the course of the biennium that ends on June 30, 2015.

The report’s recommended cuts include reduced overtime and lower payments to county jails within the Department of Corrections, cuts to state funding for public schools, a nearly $450,000 reduction in the state’s share of Head Start programs and a $1 million elimination of funding for childhood immunizations.

The document was posted on the Office of Policy and Management’s website Monday afternoon, the report’s due date. It outlines nearly $11.3 million in cuts in the current fiscal year that can be accomplished without legislative approval. Many of the $24 million in cuts recommended for fiscal year 2015 can also be implemented by the administration, although some of the cuts and policy adjustments will require vetting by the Legislature.

Among the cuts proposed in Rosen’s report were the following:

  • The report recommends closure of the Maine Revenue Services’ Houlton office, which has already happened, for more than $1 million in savings over the biennium.
  • In the Department of Education, the report recommends cutting almost $9.6 million in administrative expenses within the Essential Programs and Services model. That figure is based on a goal of reducing administrative costs to an average of $222 per pupil, though school units with administrative costs of less than $230 per pupil and schools with fewer than 500 students would be exempt.
  • In the Department of Corrections, the report recommends saving $1.1 million by reducing overtime; cutting the Prisoner Boarding Account, which supports DOC inmates held in county jails, for a savings of $800,000; changing regulations so that prisoners with 18 months left on their sentences, as opposed to the current limit of 12 months, can participate in work-release programs, which will generate an additional $85,000 in revenue; and privatizing the DOC’s kitchen staff, which would save $374,000.
  • In the Department of Health and Human Services, the report calls for improved management of outside contracts, which could save as much as $3 million; a $1 million reduction in spending on childhood immunizations; a $500,000 cut to the Public Health Nursing Program and the Maine Families Home Visiting Program; and elimination of the state’s share of support for Head Start, which would save almost $450,000. The report also calls for reducing the state’s support of municipally administered General Assistance programs by $1.2 million.
  • Throughout state government, the report calls for the elimination of 97 positions for a savings of $2.8 million, though only 12 of those positions are currently filled. Hardest hit would be the Department of Health and Human Services, 38 positions; the Department of Corrections, 15.5 positions; the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, 10 positions; the Legislature, 6.5 staff positions; and the Department of Transportation, 6.5 positions.

Although it says the savings would be “negligible,” the report also recommends eliminating more than a dozen inactive state boards and commissions.

The Office of Policy Management, a LePage initiative, was created in 2012 and assumed some of the responsibilities of the State Planning Office, which was eliminated in 2012 as part of a supplemental budget package. The office reviews state agency budgets, evaluates the effectiveness of state programs and compiles economic data.

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Comments

JOHN PAINTER's picture

I had thought the Governor

I had thought the Governor was interested in people before politics, most of the budget he proposed originally, and the current reiteration is political.

It's very clear to me, working in behavioral health where most of the waste occurs and suspect others understand this too, however at around $4billion annually in federal Medicaid coming into Maine, there are many interests in maintaining the status quo. We can't afford that type of tyranny.

For example we can save $20 million in the biennium by immediately canceling the contract with APS HealthCare (which attempts to contain MaineCare costs by limiting medically necessary services, predictably it takes time away from actually providing services and creates more administrative and clinical work debating that - yes a floridly psychotic individual, and in the end tax payers, really do benefit when they actually make it to their psychiatrists office and don't end up in the hospital or jail) and utilizing existing DHHS staff in the division of licensing and MaineCare audit to detect provider waste fraud and abuse and suspend and revoke their license when proven. There are adequate staff in the Maine DHHS division of licensing and MaineCare audit for this.

Being familiar with behavioral health contracting the entire shortfall can be eliminated several fold by aligning state health objectives with the actual contracts, and reporting requirements licensed agencies have. For example, the reports I do quarterly, do not contain any data about my organizations contract, and the contract has marginal at best alignment with overall state objectives for population health. The waste in administrative time generating data not pertinent to the contract, let alone demonstrating patient health improvement is surreal in Maine.

As a psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner I'm confused why that the state I grew up in and love doesn't want to hold me accountable for what I'm trained in - helping people with a severe and persistent mental illness recover and stay healthy, and in so doing reduce the overall cost of services - this is actually documented but not reported since the state does not want it.

 's picture

kids

Why does LePage hate kids?

 's picture

From the BDN

During the 2010-11 school year, Maine’s K-12 per student expenditures were the eighth highest in the country — at $15,032, according to an annual data summary from the National Education Association. That spending was more than a third higher than the national average of $10,770.

Based on personal income, Maine’s spending ranked fourth in the country in 2009, according to the NEA, the nation’s teachers union, but the state is not spending that money on teacher pay. Maine ranked 36th for teacher salaries in 2010-11, the NEA report shows. Maine’s average teacher salary was $47,182; the national average was $55,623.

However, with declining enrollments, Maine has far more teachers than the national average. The state had the second-lowest student-to teacher-ratio — 10.9 — in the nation in 2010. Only Vermont was lower at 9.6. The national average was 15.6.

 's picture

Having only taught in college...

...I don't know if this is meaningful data. I know the Governor wants to improve performance. Maybe that's not what school is all about?

 's picture

22%

I know for a fact that he doesn't. He'd dearly love our kids to be reading at grade level for one.

Considering how unhappy

Considering how unhappy sheriffs are with the current compensation for housing State inmates, it will be more than just Somerset closing its doors to those inmates if the State is going to cut that even further.

Jason Theriault's picture

Not gonna fly

LePage might as well advocate closing down the Department of Education, making unions illegal and adding being a democrat as a mental, because these cuts have no chance making ti past the legislature.

alot of Democrats do suffer

alot of Democrats do suffer from mental mind disorder these days.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Remember Dems In Norway, ME

Dennis Arsenault Electronics RO is not your place to do any business...FYI....

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Remember Dems In Norway, ME

Dennis Arsenault Electronics is not your place to do any business...FYI....

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The cuts

9 million in cuts to the schools on top of tossing the bill for teacher retirement to the local school districts !! If he keeps this up we will begin to doubt his claims of being the education governor. Add to that monstrous cuts to Head start. I think he likes the designation of Maine as the most stupid state in the nation so much he wants to add to it.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Congradulations.............

We are getting ever so close to that magical moment, when the LePage Administration will announce, that as a result of hard thought out reductions in just about everything, the citizens of the Great State of Maine are nothing more than tenants of the State. Taxes will still be collected, fee's will still be charged for everything under the sun, and it will cost you dearly to register vehicles in this state. However, as a result of the LePage Administrations ingenious planning, there will be no return for anyone except of course the Administrations inflated payroll. Paul LePage has actually saved so much money through cuts to every social program out there, slashed education almost completely, and of course cut revenue sharing to the entire State. There just isn't anything left for the citizens.
In the interest of reducing all the red tape, and allowing for the elimination of several State agencies, the Governor request's that every resident please turn over all monies earned or otherwise to the State. for which we will still allow you to call Maine your home Thank You, and Have a Nice Day.............

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