Anger over vetoes: Maine Democrats, Republicans clash on budget

Associated Press

Maine Gov. Paul LePage laughs Wednesday during a ceremony at the Blaine House in Augusta. LePage signed three bills he said will help to improve Maine’s business environment and open the door to jobs.

AUGUSTA — Democrats reacted angrily Wednesday to a decision by Republican legislators not to break up a monthlong recess to take up two of the governor’s line-item budget vetoes, saying the GOP breached the public trust and damaged hopes for bipartisanship when the session resumes.

Republicans said suggestions of a crisis are being overblown and that the Democrats’ concerns can be addressed when lawmakers return May 15.

The partisan sparring ensued after Republican majority leaders announced Tuesday that most of their members had no interest in considering this week whether to override Gov. Paul LePage’s line-item vetoes of two items in the recently enacted budget balancing bill. It would take a majority vote to override those vetoes, which dealt with general assistance, the all-purpose welfare program run by cities and towns, and Medicaid funding for institutional care.

Senate Democratic leader Barry Hobbins of Saco released a statement saying Republicans “just pulled the ultimate flip-flop. Less than a week ago there was resounding bipartisan support for the budget. Today, legislative Republicans have shown a fundamental lack of courage.”

Democrats also demanded a list of how the Republican lawmakers voted, and GOP officials were preparing a response.

The lead House Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, called the Republicans’ action “a breach of trust and an insult to the bipartisan work” of the committee, which had unanimously supported the budget.

The vetoed item in the spending document which raised the most interest concerns the general assistance program. The budget would have cut the current maximum of 90 percent to 85 percent, but LePage wanted that cut to 50 percent.

Democrats also warned that a severe cut in general assistance aid will shift taxes to property taxpayers.

Republicans said that’s not necessarily true. Senate Republican Leader Jon Courtney of Springvale said the general assistance changes wouldn’t kick in until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Lawmakers will have time before then to negotiate an acceptable figure, he said.

“This is a small part of the budget,” said Courtney. “I don’t think it’s a crisis some people make it out to be.”

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, who’s leading a group of mayors who oppose general assistance cuts, said they want lawmakers to once again embrace the budget deal that was approved.

“We’re hopeful when they convene again they’ll stand by that compromise that’s been agreed to,” said Brennan.

The governor is open to further discussions but insists on deeper cuts in general assistance, saying its costs have risen from $6.7 million in fiscal 2008 to a projected $14.3 million in sharply and such sharp rises can’t be sustained.

“He would encourage an open dialogue between legislators and himself to work toward the structural changes that are needed,” said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Anger over vetoes: Maine Democrats, Republicans clash on budget

all 12.04.19 1 pm hst ?
Govt. inaction •
? h t h /s, Steve

 's picture

Budget

Why is it when the Mayor or Governor speak about looking into the fraud that is going on in this state some think he is after the poor little guy down on his luck? There would be more for the honest people who are down on their luck if there wasn't so many continuing to "live off the system." I see ads in this paper for job openings but people won't take them cause they get more by not working. That should never happen and if you are living off the system, smoke and own a dogs there is definitely something wrong with the system. If you can afford to do that then food stamps should stop or be cut back. Years ago if you turned down a job your unemployment stopped but now you don't have to take a job or even look for one if its not to your pleasing. This is wrong and I don't care what anyone says. You should never make more by not working then working. It never used to be this way and now cause the Gov. wants to get back to where living off the system is not a way of life everyone is ready to string him up. If you can't get enough hours in one place then get a few hours in another place. You do what you have to do cause the gravy train looks like its finally gonna stop. A couple can live together and have kids and the state pays as long as they don't marry. Do you think they all don't know thats how the system works? Goooo Gov. and go Mayor McDonald.

JOHN PAINTER's picture

Avoiding federal law violations

While I applaud the bipartisan work done to develop our state budget, I also applaud the Governor for doing his job and closely reviewing each line in a very large supplemental budget.

To his credit, Governor LePage made a very reasonable decision that many of us in human services would have made too, preventing our state from further costly violation of federal rules by using Medicaid funds for funding an Institute for Mental Disease (IMD).

Maine is currently under review from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a large number of serious violations of federal Medicaid rules over many years. In my growing respect for Commissioner Mayhew, she has begun to post online communications with CMS over the past several years of the most serious problems our state must correct in how we administer Medicaid funds, and promulgate state MaineCare rules. A listing of those communications can be found here

http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oms/provider/pnmi/citations.shtml

Using the line item veto to strike down use of Medicaid funds for our state psychiatric hospitals was a wise act by Governor LePage.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I wish for just one week

I wish for just one week when I can read the paper without seeing that ugly smile on the front page exalting his most recent act of stupidity. Once again Lepage has dealt a blow to what little chance of bipartisan cooperation there was.
What really gets me is this almost insane attack on the poor. At first he was all fed up with cheats, which he should be. But his constant attack on poor people is nothing short of cruel. That's right cruel. Some of these people, by no fault of their own are scraping by on whatever they can get. To listen to Lepage, their living high on the hog at his personal expense. I'm talking homeless mothers with children. Perfectly good people, who just happen to have been caught up in this down turned economy.
Now I've seen some really dumb politicians in my time all over the country. I just haven't seen one flaunt his obvious lack for intelligence as Lepage has. Its time to stop this idiot from putting the fear of God into every less fortunate person in the state. He doesn't have to fill up the car everyday, he doesn't have to choose between rent or heat. He doesn't have to worry about anything. Its about time he stars treating those that do, with the respect they deserve. And Pauly, one other thing to keep in mind. There is a huge population of people who need help now or in the future. In Maine and every other state, these people are swept aside. Just remember one thing, their voters. That should put the fear of God in you.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Frank 12:50 pm hst

Frank 12:50 pm hst Thursday
. ." . . fear of God ? " We Christians believe in a r e d e m p t i v e , reconciling , and non - v i n d i c t i v e God :)
That's what the New Testamwent is all about
Ya' know , God's coming back ? ( and boy is she pissed :)
/s, Steve

 's picture

Go ahead... criticize the man

Go ahead... criticize the man who does his job and praise those who refuse to work! Purge the system first; then we'll find who needs a hand up instead of continued hand outs.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I will citisize the man

It would appear that you are one of those people that are hell bent on the idea that people who don't work, can work but choose not to. I agree those people need to be "purged".
His line item veto, which he snuck in when no one was watching, is going to hurt a lot more than just the people who need help. Yes, there are people who really do need help. It puts the cities and towns in a position that they need to make up for the cut. That's increased property taxes. People can't afford more taxes as many are laid off or working reduced hours. Rents will go up to cover the increase.
Personally I have nothing against the guy, he may be the nicest person in the world, but he's hurting poor people. Some like me who will never be able to work again. He has to learn how to separate those in need and those not. that his job. As long as the best he can do is scrap everyone in spite of a few, I'll Fight his methods tooth and nail. I don't care how many people don't agree with me. I'm still going to speak for those who can't or are afraid to speak for themselves. I know he really thinks he knows what he wants to do, but unfortunately he's way off base.

 's picture

First of all we need to

First of all we need to define disability. Unless your IQ is 65 and your most marketable skill is self defecation, you are not disabled. Go to work at a call center, stuff envelopes, sell Amway...I don't care. We wast too much on those who obviously can contribute to society but will not. Hell, Stephen Hawking is two ticks shy of an avacado but the man still publishes.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Someone finally shut me up

This letter is so wrong ,no comment can justify it.

 's picture

I am sick and tired of

I am sick and tired of hearing the Democrats cry about bipartisanship. Bipartisanship to them is "do it our way." When was the last time they compromised on anything?

 's picture

Cowards hit disagree and run

Funny....I see five disagrees but not one intelligent rebuttal. Typical of their ilk. Freedom of speech...as long as you say what we like to hear, bipartisan.... as long as you see it our way. It's always typically been a party that places emotions above logic and that's what makes them weak leaders time and again. It's a personality flaw, really.

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