AUGUSTA — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation providing nearly $2.5 million in new funding to the state’s county jails.

The bill, LD 1614, was amended to cover the costs using part of an anticipated increase in federal Medicaid matching funds the state expects to receive for 2016. It does not, however, offer a long-term funding fix for county jails, which are funded in part with state revenue and local property taxes.

“This bill provides critical support to our sheriffs and county jails,” Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said in a prepared statement. “This funding is necessary to give our counties the resources they need to run safe, secure and efficient county jails.”

The bill also received a strong bipartisan 115-32 vote of support in the House on Tuesday. 

But Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s commissioner of Health and Human Services, Mary Mayhew, panned the move to use federal Medicaid funds on jails during a radio interview with hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler on WVOM on Tuesday.

Mayhew said the money that lawmakers are counting on to fund the jails is already earmarked for increasing expenses within the state’s Medicaid system, MaineCare.


“I’m troubled by this,” Mayhew said. “We are not experiencing some windfall from the federal government that is going to produce additional money that can then be spent.”

Earlier on the show, LePage repeated his position that jails should be either funded and run by county government or funded and run by state government. He reiterated a point he’s made in the past that whoever holds the “checkbook” for jails should be the one making the decisions.

The comments by Mayhew and LePage could signal that LePage will veto the bill when it reaches his desk this week.

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