LePage says GOP should use majority power to pass Medicaid cuts

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage reiterated Tuesday that he'd prefer Republican lawmakers to use their majority power to adopt his budget, which eliminates government-funded health care for many low-income Mainers. 

Republican leaders, however, continued to hope LePage would review the developing bipartisan plan before rejecting it out of hand. 

Leaders in both parties confirmed Tuesday that lawmakers on the Legislature's budget-writing panel were close to a bipartisan deal to address the immediate shortfall at the Department of Health and Human Services. House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said it was possible that the Appropriations Committee could vote on the proposal Tuesday evening. 

That work continued despite comments made by the governor Monday during which he accused lawmakers of using gimmicks to close the $12o million budget gap at DHHS for fiscal year 2012. LePage on Tuesday doubled down on his intentions to veto a proposal that doesn't eliminate health care for about 18,000 childless adults receiving Medicaid, as well as for 19- and 20-year-olds. 

Republicans and Democrats have sought other alternatives that would reduce eligibility for some of those programs and fund it by diverting funds from the dismantling of the Dirigo Health program. 

However, the governor said Tuesday that those plans were unacceptable. Rather than work with Democrats, whom he believes were not negotiating in good faith, LePage said Republicans should use their majority power.

"I think we’re looking at it and saying at this point that there’s no other way," he said, adding that he didn't envision a compromise that he'd be able to support.

Although Republicans control both chambers in the Legislature, it didn't appear Tuesday that their caucus was completely united behind the governor's proposal. LePage acknowledged as much, saying that if lawmakers didn't adequately address the structural problems in Medicaid, he'd spend the rest of the year campaigning for GOP candidates who would. 

"We’ll see what happens this week . . . but it may be a situation that I need to go out campaigning for the next year and ask the Maine people to send people (to Augusta) who are willing to work," he said. 

It remained to be seen whether the governor would have to carry out his veiled promise to "primary" Republicans who don't back his budget. However, Nutting said he hoped LePage would first see the details of the compromise before rejecting it.

"It is our hope that once we strike a deal in Appropriations, we will be able to demonstrate to the governor and his supporters that the deal we were able to construct is preferable to the one he seems to be most interested in," Nutting said.

He added, "I would suggest that everyone wait and see what the plan is coming out of the Appropriations Committee. Maybe he’ll like it. Maybe it’s a better plan."

LePage said he believed Democrats were playing politics with the budget.

"I don't think they’re bargaining at all," he said. "I think the Democrats are sitting on their hands and the leadership of the Appropriations Committee has tried every angle they can trying to introduce some fixes. They’ve gotten to a point that what they’re working on now is totally unacceptable. It’s not going to fix Maine. It’s deceiving the Maine people."

The governor said Democrats had drawn a line in the sand. Negotiating with them was a failed exercise. 

"The so-called party of the people is the party of a nanny state," he said. "This stuff that they’re doing now is politics. I despise it."

Nutting disagreed, saying that the budget proposal was a difficult one for both parties to grapple with. 

"I don't think (Democrats) aren't bargaining in good faith," he said. "They’ve been at the table. They’re working. We’re this close. We’re very close to coming together with a consolidated package that I think is preferable to the one that the governor appears to favor right now. I just ask that he wait and see it."

Nutting also acknowledged the political realities of the budget crisis, which is coming during an election year and at a time when Republicans hold a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives.

"We don’t want to do anything that’s perceived as a mistake and at the same time we want to hit a home run," he said. "At the end of the day, one party is not going to be to blame. We all share in what’s going to happen."

The plan expected to emerge from Appropriations would cut more than $140 million in spending and pay the Medicaid bills for the current budget. The proposal also uses $25 million in savings from the governor's streamlining initiative. 

Even if lawmakers settle on a compromise, some difficult work lies ahead. Republican leaders on the Appropriations Committee said the consensus plan would buy more time to deal with more complex changes in fiscal year 2013.

Those proposals are described by LePage and some Republicans as structural changes. However, Democrats view such changes as running counter to their party ideology.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Tony Morin's picture

Uh, hello???

Paul??? Anybody home??? The legislature is working together and coming up with a bipartisan plan. Your own party doesn't even like your plan. This guy is an incredible narcissist, but has no good reason to be.

Bickford Wiles's picture

Derail Mainecare

It is clear that the Medicare program funded both with state and Federal money has failed.No more free lunch for the Democrats.Its time to start paying the bad debt off and stop playing re-election politics.LePage has opened the can of worms and you can see who is squirming the most.Hopefully, their will be fresh fish for dinner.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

This guy has to go back to mardens

I don't look at this from a political point of view, I am not a democrat , republican or independant. I'm like an outsider looking in the window.
What I would expect to see, would be a governor working together with everyone to solve a problem that will eventually affect everyone. Someone willing to bend one way or the other. He was elected to serve the people.
What I see is a fool, his mouth is ten steps ahead of his brain. He's a thug wanna be. I've worked and lived all over the country, and I have never seen a governor use so many threats to get his way. He makes threats he knows are illegle. He is so afraid of the next round of elections for a reason. He's going to be the last one standing, and its his fault.
I am so glad my daughter had the brains to move out of state. At least she has health insurance.
Again I'm looking at this with absolutly no polotical concideration. What I see is the schoolyard bully trying to get as many lackys on his side as possible. Unfortunatly thats how the rest of the country sees the state. Kind of makes you proud, doesn't it?

GARY SAVARD's picture

There seems to be a problem

There seems to be a problem in Augusta with folks not understanding that our welfare system as it stands is not sustainable. It hasn't been for a while, either. John Baldacci used one time money and delayed payments to providers to balance his budgets and he left with hospitals owed millions of dollars. The DHHS problems have to be resolved, and I give Lepage credit for facing that problem and taking the heat that goes with it. We can't ignore the problem and we can't tax our way out of it, either.

Gerald Weinand's picture

LePage does understand that

LePage does understand that he needs 101 votes in the House to pass any budget, and that there are only 77 Republicans, right?

 's picture

not really, the republicans

not really, the republicans only need 76 votes to pass anything, the only problem is it wouldn't be able to become law until 90 after the legislature adjourns. In order for it to become effective immediately, he'd need 101 votes.

Gerald Weinand's picture

Except that the proposed cuts

Except that the proposed cuts are for, in part, the 4th Quarter of FY2012, which runs from 1 April to 30 June. Tell me how that 90 days works.

 's picture

you're assuming the funds are

you're assuming the funds are not there for the fourth quarter. I don't believe anything this governor says, his track record isn't one of veracity.

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