AUGUSTA — He was on the agenda and then he was off the agenda. Now he’s back on, and it appears lawmakers on the Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee will get to hear, in person, from Gary Alexander.

Alexander, the CEO of the Alexander Group — a Rhode Island company hired, under a nearly $1 million contract, by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to analyze and report on Maine welfare programs — is expected to testify before the committee Tuesday.
 
The appearance  follows an over-the-weekend political tit-for-tat between majority Democrats, who were protesting the cost and validity of the report, and Republicans, who claimed Democrats are blocking the report’s results because it shows Maine can’t afford to expand its Medicaid program, MaineCare.
 
Democrats have twice passed legislation that fell to LePage vetoes that would have done that.
 
Democratic lawmakers have also been critical of Alexander’s past work including his tenure at the helm of the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare.
 
Alexander’s leadership was also questioned by the Pennsylvania’s State Auditor who cites an audit his staff did that showed Alexander’s decision making cost the state about $7 million a year.  Other controversies Alexander was involved with in Pennsylvania included using a state-owned vehicle as he commuted between Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, where he lives.
 
Democrats believe LePage simply hired Alexander, whose work in other states has been viewed as controversial, to concoct a study supporting the governor’s position against expansion.  Democratic lawmakers in Maine had called him a crony of the LePage administration and have sought to undermine the reports validity, Republicans have said.
 
“My Democratic colleagues have spent months blasting the LePage Administration for not sending personnel to committee hearings that were designed only for partisan publicity, and when the administration sent written materials instead, they scoffed,” Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R–Chelsea, said in a prepared statement issued Saturday.
 
Sanderson, is a lead Republican on the HHS Committee.

“Now the Democrats are suddenly saying they don’t want live testimony, and that the written report will do,”  Sanderson said. “I don’t know if it’s because the results of the study make it inconvenient to conduct their usual publicity stunt or because they just don’t want to hear information that contradicts their desired outcome, but it’s wrong either way.”

A message issued Sunday by a spokeswoman for Democrats and the committee’s Democratic chairwoman, Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said Alexander would be allowed to testify.

Craven and the Democratic House Chair, Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland said they acted in “haste when we postponed Mr. Alexander’s appearance before the committee.”

“However, we did so with the understanding that the Alexander report would be briefed at Wednesday’s public hearing,” they wrote.  “This decision should have been more carefully vetted. Legislative leadership has since urged us to put Mr. Alexander back on Tuesday’s agenda and we have done so.”

Alexander and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew presented the first portion, of a 5-part study, to the media and public last Friday.

During that presentation Alexander said his findings suggest expanding Medicaid in Maine would cost the state $807 million over the next 10 years.

The final portion the Alexander Group report – which is costing the state $925,200 – will be delivered to the state in May.

Meanwhile, Alexander is expected to appear before the HHS committee to take questions on his report at 12 p.m. Tuesday.
 
State Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said Monday he hopes the committee, despite varying views and opinions on the expansion of Medicaid in Maine, will stick to a discussion about the facts.
 
“We are in a legitimate political process, there’s  a committee process that’s going forward, people can challenge the data, they can challenge the facts, they can challenge the assumptions. That’s what debates are about. That’s what policy making is about,” said Fredette, who is the minority leader in the Maine House. “But this is not about a man, this is really a debate about Medicaid expansion and let’s focus on what the issue is and not the personal side of it.”
 
 
 
 
 


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