AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers scored their first veto override in a decade Wednesday, drowning out Gov. Paul LePage's objections to restore MaineCare services to special-needs children in the state's schools.
The 35-0 vote Wednesday in the Senate came without debate and a day after a House vote of 124-16.
The measure directs the state education and health departments to develop a plan to reinstitute a program that provides medically necessary services to children in Maine schools.
Supporters of the legislation say the program, run through MaineCare — the state's Medicaid program — was funded entirely with federal Medicaid dollars until it was phased out about three years ago. Federal funding has dwindled from about $30 million to $7 million last year, supporters said.
Restoration of the program would help schools pay for such services as speech clinicians and psychologists, transportation and nursing services.
Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in handing the GOP governor a rebuke on the bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Peter Edgecomb of Caribou and encountered virtually no opposition as it worked its way through the Legislature.
In his veto message, LePage said the bill distracted the administration's effort to straighten out other problems in MaineCare. Officials are trying now to correct a problem with state computers, which resulted in as many as 19,000 people erroneously receiving MaineCare services.
LePage said Edgecomb's bill "attempts to force action before we have all the facts."
"The Federal Inspector General is currently undertaking an audit of our school-based MaineCare service program and it is unclear what their findings will be. It is possible that we will be required to repay the Federal Government for past misuses of funds," the governor wrote.
While there was no Senate debate, some lawmakers said after the vote they support restoration of the program.
"I think it's a great idea," Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello, R-Poland. "Kids come first. We have to address their health."
Maine's last override of a gubernatorial veto, according to the state law library, was on April 24, 2002. Lawmakers then overrode Gov. Angus King's veto of a bill allowing sales tax exemptions for equipment purchased by Maine broadcasters to produce radio and television signals.