AUGUSTA— Democrats in the Senate were unsuccessful Tuesday in attempting to overturn a veto by Gov. Paul LePage, who had nixed a resolve to cancel the contracts of companies that have overseen the troubled administration of the state’s MaineCare rides program.

In a party-line vote, the Senate voted 20-15 to override the veto, short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a law over the governor’s objection.

“We had a contract that was consistently underperforming, with people left on the side of the road since July, and we haven’t seen anyone raise the standards of this contract,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, who sponsored the bill. “I realize there’s only a couple months left in the contract, but this type of poor performance should not be rewarded.”

The Legislature originally approved the measure after months of controversy surrounding the largest broker of nonemergency medical transportation for MaineCare recipients, Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions.

The company received six state contracts worth more than $28 million to provide coverage for a large portion of the state but has been plagued with patient complaints about missed appointments, late rides and calls that took hours to be answered — if they were answered at all.

The vetoed bill, LD 1663, would have required the department opt not to renew contracts with that company or the two other brokers and would have canceled the request for proposals in order to replace it with one that prioritizes Maine companies and penalizes Coordinated Transportation Solutions and any other contract holder. The bill proposes that a new system be in place by October at the latest.

The Department of Health and Human Services pledged in February that it would not renew Coordinated Transportation Solutions’ contracts, and it issued a request for proposals from other companies that may be better suited to handle the calls.

In his veto letter, LePage blasted lawmakers’ proposal and said legislative tampering with contracts would diminish Maine’s ability to partner with private businesses in the future.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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