(With apologies to all sailors who never drank to excess, it’s a phrase of historical context, no insult intended.)

During a recent discussion about health care costs in Maine and Gov.-elect Janet Mills’ promise to expand Medicaid immediately upon taking office, the question arose as to whether the carefully set aside “Rainy Day Fund” of the LePage administration would be pilfered to initially pay for this — as the federal monies will not fund it right away, and will disappear after a few years. The general consensus was, “Of course, there isn’t any other funding option immediately available.”

How long will the $273 million “Rainy Day Fund” (actually termed the Budget Stabilization Fund) last if utilized to pay for this version of Medicaid expansion? Maybe a few months, if you are an optimist.

As Mills’ said during the campaign. “The money is there and, as governor, I’ll implement Medicaid expansion on Day One. “

Claiming that it will only cost the state a paltry $60 million to “. . . Provide 70,000 Mainers with health coverage” honestly sounds more like wishful thinking. It did not work before, and it is highly unlikely to work out to that cost level now, as Vermont discovered recently with its failed program.

Expand anything you want, but if the physical staff does not exist to treat or care for the population covered all you’ve done is create more waiting lists and very likely worse outcomes for all.

Ever wonder how many of the expansion advocates actually work for a living in the medical field? How many on Mills’ staff will be doing graveyard shifts at Maine Med in the ER?

Unfortunately the Legislature has never come up with the money to fund Medicaid expansion. Perhaps with the new super majority seating the new Legislature will invent a hat to pull that rabbit out of without raising taxes or fees. It will be an issue to watch with serious interest as it will have a major impact on Maine businesses and the entire economy here for years to come, though not in the “free lunch” way portrayed as “the money is there. . . “

Where have we heard that before?

Short of raising taxes in a very significant way, as Vermont’s governor discovered last year for the same situation, it appears inevitable that the new administration will begin on this note of using the Rainy Day Fund and continue down the road of fiscal binges.

We can hope not, but from almost 50 years of observation of Maine’s Democratic governors I’d say their records prove that would be guaranteed wishful thinking.

I’m encouraged that many of the recently elected candidates to the Maine House and Senate have issued statements promising to work hard for all constituents, and that they really do listen to all voters. Mind you, I won’t be holding my breath when they don’t offer to work on legislative issues with any of the Republican legislators, but at least their statements of fellowship (if not bipartisanship) will be wonderful to look back on in 2020.

One gathers that the transition team Mills has assembled in Augusta is very busy planning the dismantling efforts of the entire LePage administration. As expected, when one promises a laundry list of liberal agenda items, there will be costs, monetary and otherwise. We’ve seen this before, just perhaps not so aggressively positioned.

The real million dollar question, and any honest person knows the answer, is this: after the tens of millions of out-of-state money buys our electorate once again, who picks up the pieces, goes to work and actually pays the state’s bills?

Hint: It sure isn’t going to be the Super PACs or big money donors from out of state.

Another View is a weekly column written collaboratively by Dale Landrith of Camden, Ken Frederic of Bristol, Paul Ackerman of Martinsville, Jan Dolcater of Rockport and Ralph “Doc” Wallace of Rockport.


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