Archive for May, 2013

Apportionment Committee Unanimously Approves Redistricting Compromise Senate and House District Maps

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

house final 5_31
A bipartisan commission appointed to redraw Legislative district lines on Friday unanimously approved a compromise map for the Maine House of Representatives. The vote follows unanimous approval of a compromise map for the State Senate and county maps last Friday.

The commission’s unanimous vote was seen as a victory in the redistricting process. Decisions often have been left to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, including in 2003, when lawmakers couldn’t settle on a Senate map.

We have reached a map that I think is reasonable and fair to both sides,” said David Emery, a consultant for Republicans who has been involved in redistricting debates in Maine dating to 1973. “It’s impossible to make everyone happy in a negotiation of this kind, but both caucuses should be congratulated for their work.”

Greg Olson, a Democratic consultant, agreed.

“Overall, this is a true compromise,” Olson said Friday of the new House map. “This is a map both sides and the people in the state can be proud of. This represents the first time in many decades that we’ve come to an agreement on both chambers of the Legislature as well as the county commissions.”

Maine law requires legislative district and county commission maps be updated every 10 years based on population changes. The new maps are based on the 2010 census, which shows a shift in population from Northern to Southern Maine.

The ideal House district size is 8,797 people, while the ideal Senate district is 37,953. The 151 House districts and the 35 Senate districts are all within plus or minus 5 percent of that ideal population size.

full senate compromiseThe Maine Constitution requires the plan to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislature by June 11. If a two-thirds vote cannot be achieved, redistricting proposals are sent to the State Supreme Judicial Court for resolution.

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Reactions of some lawmakers who served on the committee are below.

Rep. Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan), Assistant House Majority Leader:

    “These comprise maps demonstrate that the two parties can work together even on tough issues.”

Senator Troy Jackson (D-Allagash), Assistant Senate Majority Leader:

    “We worked together to get the job done. It was a good example of bipartisan work happening in the Legislature.”


Senator Emily Cain (D-Penobscot):

    “The maps are a fair and deliberate compromise that we believe is in the best interest of the state of Maine. This compromise bodes well for the vote in the House and Senate.”

Rep. Joan Welsh (D-Rockport):

    “We are proud to recommend a compromise map to the full Legislature.”

Here are the released changes (PDF):

Senate:

House:

The maps face further votes in the House and Senate.

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Democrats to Republicans: Time to Balance Budget, Roll Back LePage/ 125th Legislature’s Unfunded “Tax Cuts for Wealthy”

Posted on May 30, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Democratic legislators urged their Republican colleagues on Wednesday to “delay tax breaks for the wealthy” as a means of helping balance the budget and avoid property tax hikes. The unfunded tax breaks, passed two years ago, were championed by Governor Paul LePage and the 125th GOP-controlled Legislature.

Speaker Eves takes question from media, as Governor LePage's office broadcasts a message of "No New Taxes"

Speaker Eves takes question from media, as Governor LePage’s office broadcasts overhead a message of “No New Taxes”.

    “In order to pay for a tax break that largely benefits the wealthy, Governor LePage’s budget increases property taxes on the middle class and working people, on seniors and small businesses, on homeowners and renters,” said Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “Putting these tax breaks for the wealthy on hold is the responsible option, we can’t just pass the buck.”

    Eves continued, “The question before us is not whether we raise taxes or not; but instead, will we raise taxes on working and middle class people, on our seniors and small businesses? Or can we simply agree that right now Maine can’t afford an unfunded tax break for the wealthy?

    More than 60 towns and school districts have signed resolutions against the LePage budget. The Maine Municipal Association says the LePage budget is a $424 million shift to municipalities and property taxpayers.

    Delaying the entire tax cut, including the income tax and estate tax changes, would restore more than $400 million in revenues. Delaying the tax breaks was recommended by the Taxation Committee (PDF) after months of public hearings on the budget and tax proposals.

    photo (8)Now is not the time for tax cuts that we can’t afford. Our economy simply isn’t growing at a pace to be able to afford a tax break that will primarily benefit the wealthy,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “We need a budget that reflects Maine values, and a budget that we can afford. Raising the property taxes of working Mainers to pay for tax cuts for the rich is neither.

    The tax cuts passed in 2011 provides the top one percent, those earning more than $350,000 per year, a tax cut of almost $3,000, while middle income families will see a return of a little more than $100, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rich Cebra, a former member of the 125th GOP Legislature, pounced immediately with a mass fear-mongering fundraising email. Some portions:

    Liberal Taxation Committee Revives Tax Hikes Of Past In Committee Recommendations

    The old saying, that you “can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig” is certainly true in Augusta with Democrats in control. They are up to the same old tactics they have been practicing for 40 plus years, and the Maine Republican Party is speaking out.

    In a letter to the Appropriations Committee, the Democrat controlled taxation committee has proposed putting some new lipstick on the same old pig and trying to trick you into thinking they have new ideas. They don’t. The letter contains a heavy dose of rhetoric for a legislative committee, as well as recommendations for a massive middle class tax hike.

    In short, Democrats have just said that they don’t care about pro-growth tax reform, they don’t care about middle class Maine people, they don’t care about Maine’s small businesses, and they don’t care about making government more affordable. In fact, all they do care about is taking as much of your money as possible, and taking it as quickly and efficiently as possible. If that means putting new lipstick on the same old pig, that’s what they’re going to do, and it’s what they just did.

Pretty fiery stuff- except the facts do not fall on the side of Cebra and the GOP. From 2011:

    Included in the budget is a provision that would raise the retirement age of public workers from 62 to 65, cut Maine’s prescription drug and health coverage for working parents program, end $400 of property tax relief for more than 75,000 middle-income Maine households, and freeze cost of living adjustments for state employee retirees — which already provides a meager average pension of only $18,500 per year.

    Yet at the same time, LePage is pushing through hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts. While most Mainers will receive a tax cut under the governor’s plan, the lion’s share of the cuts will go to the wealthiest of state residents.

Here is MECEP’s analysis:

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(UPDATED) Maine Democrats Urge Support for Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1066

Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATE: Now that the Senate Republicans stood with Governor LePage and today refused to override last week’s veto, LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”, is going to be taken up by the HHS Committee as early as tomorrow.

(Originally posted April 2, 2013)

Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham) introduces LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”

On March 20th, Democrats held a press conference introducing LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”. If Maine accepts the federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 people, the state will save $690 million over the next decade, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will fully pay for the coverage for three years. Federal funding will gradually reduce to 90 percent after the first three years. States may opt-out of the program at any time.

Here is a clip of sponsor Rep. Dr. Linda Sanborn, a retired family physician, at the press conference:

    “Accepting these federal dollars to get health care to more Maine people is the right prescription for Maine. Maine has an opportunity to cover more people and save millions of dollars currently spent to treat uninsured people in emergency rooms.”

She was joined by Maine Medical Association President Dr. Dieter Kreckel and bill co-sponsors Rep. Jane Pringle (Windham), a retired primary care doctor and medical clinic director (VIDEO), Rep. Anne Graham (Yarmouth), a pediatric nurse practitioner, Rep. Ann Dorney (Norridgewock), a family doctor, and Sen. Geoff Gratwick (Bangor):

    “Building a strong economy and a strong middle class means making sure people have the health care they need, when they need it, at an affordable cost. Accepting federal funds to increase health coverage will strengthen Maine’s economy and provide health coverage to thousands of hard-working Mainers.”

Today, Speaker of the House Mark Eves gave strong backing to the measure that would authorize Maine to accept federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine families. More than 50 people came to testify in support of the bill. The Health and Human Services Committee will vote on the measure in the coming weeks.

Here is his prepared testimony delivered during the public hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee.

    mark eves
    Good afternoon, Senator Craven, Rep. Farnsworth and distinguished members of the Health and Human Services Committee.

    I am Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick — and I have the honor of serving as the Speaker of the Maine House.

    Thank you for allotting me the time to testify on this very critical issue to our state.

    I am here to testify in support of LD 1066, “An Act to Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding.” I’d like to thank the bill sponsors, especially Rep. and Dr. Linda Sanborn of Gorham, for bringing this very important measure forward. Thank you to the co-sponsors Sen. Saviello and Sen. Woodbury for speaking today.
    LD 1066 will take the federal government up on its offer to fully pay for health care for tens of thousands of more Maine people, while saving the state $690 million over the course of a decade.

    It’s a bargain and it’s a good deal.

    It will mean health and economic security for so many more Mainers.

    It will bring down the cost of health care for all Maine people and our hospitals.

    The arguments to support this measure are sound and strong. The doctors, the small business owners, the working families, the veterans, the hospitals, the economists, and the experts that are here today will make that case for you.

    But today, as you listen to these individuals, I urge you to think about why you came to Augusta. Why you ran for office. I’ve talked with many of you. I know you, like me, came here to serve the people in your community.
    You came here to make a difference in the lives of our community members.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N Berwick) addressing media, flanked by Senate President Justin Alfond (Portland) and House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham)

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N Berwick) addressing media, flanked by Senate President Justin Alfond (Portland) and House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham)

    Now is your opportunity with this bill – in this committee – with your vote. You can begin to make a difference right now.

    You can change the lives of 70,000 people in our state by giving their family access to a family doctor: A working father who can’t afford to pay for his heart medicine; an older Mainer struggling to pay for medicine or food; a veteran who can’t afford their insulin.

    You can not only witness history, you can participate in it.

    As a member of this committee, I heard regularly about the importance of health coverage and the difference that it made in people’s lives. I remember clearly the working father with a heart condition who spoke eloquently to our committee about the fact that MaineCare had saved his life and allowed him to have access to the medication he needed to stay healthy in order to work and care for his children. I remember the formerly uninsured young woman in her 20’s who had been unable to manage her diabetes. She was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis until she received access to MaineCare and was able to receive the preventive care and medical supplies that she needed to control her diabetes and manage her health.

    You have the power to give 70,000 more Maine people the security of knowing that if they are sick, they can go to the doctor. As a health care provider, as a veteran member of the Health and Human Services Committee, and as a parent, I know what it means to have that security and I’ve seen and heard first hand what it means when you don’t.

    I know it’s tempting to allow this to become a partisan issue. But I urge you not to. I urge you to put partisanship and ideology aside. Look at the numbers, do the math, listen to the doctors, look at the facts, and listen to the people of Maine who are behind this bill. We have an opportunity to do what’s right for the people of our state and change the lives of so many. Let’s seize this opportunity together. Thank you.

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Maine House LD 1546 Floor Speeches (VIDEO), Part 2

Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(NOTE FROM ANDI: All of these clips were recorded the evening of May 21, 2013 in the House chamber and being shared unedited in chronological order. In the instances where a post has previously been written, a link to that write-up is being shared as well, as some lawmakers were kind enough to share their prepared statements.)


8. Rep Henry Bear (Maliseet) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

9. Rep Katherine Cassidy (D- Lubec) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

10. Rep Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1546

11. Rep. James Campbell (I-Newfield) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

12. Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1546

13. Rep Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

14. Minority Leader Fredette, then Rep Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) Speak in Opposition to LD 1546

15. Rep Jane Pringle (D-Windham) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

16. Rep Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1546

17. Rep Adam Goode (D-Bangor) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

18. Rep Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

19. Rep Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1546

20. Rep Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1546


Additional related links:

1. Maine Senate Passes Historic Medicare Expansion, Hospital Repayment Bill LD 1546 Along Party Lines

2. Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” And Mixed Messaging On Medicaid Expansion

3. Maine Governor Paul LePage Vetoes LD 1546, Medicaid Expansion Bill (Video)

4. Maine House LD 1546 Floor Speeches (VIDEO), Part 1

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Maine House LD 1546 Floor Speeches (VIDEO), Part 1

Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(NOTE FROM ANDI: All of these clips were recorded the evening of May 21, 2013 in the House chamber and being shared unedited in chronological order. In the instances where a post has previously been written, a link to that write-up is being shared as well, as some lawmakers were kind enough to share their prepared statements.)

1. Maine Speaker Of The House Mark Eves Urges Passage Of Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1546 (Video; Text)

2. Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) Proposes Dividing LD 1546

3. House Speaker Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) Rules on Division of LD 1546

4. Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport): “Die Has Been Cast; False Choice by Democrats”

5. Maine State Rep. Dr. Linda Sanborn (D- Gorham) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

6. Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1546 (Part 1)

7. Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) Speaks in Support of LD 1546 (Part 1)

Additional related links:

1. Maine Senate Passes Historic Medicare Expansion, Hospital Repayment Bill LD 1546 Along Party Lines

2. Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” And Mixed Messaging On Medicaid Expansion

3. Maine Governor Paul LePage Vetoes LD 1546, Medicaid Expansion Bill (Video)

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ICYMI: Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves Urges Passage of Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1546 (Video; Text)

Posted on May 28, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(On Wednesday (5/29/13), the House is expected to take up LD 1546 again in an evening session. Here again is the floor speech of Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick), urging his colleagues in the House join him in supporting this important bill. ~AP)

(Over 50 clips of individual House members rose to deliver testimony both in support and in opposition last night, as the bill LD1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” got its first reading and roll call votes in the House. More to follow. ~AP)

Below is the full text of Speaker Eves’ remarks as prepared and released to media. Note: House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D- Bowdoinham) served as Speaker Pro Tempore. Video link here.

    “Thank you Mr. Speaker pro-tem.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise this evening to speak to an issue of great importance to me, and to the people of the state of Maine.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves gives a rare speech from the floor, urgung members to join him in support of LD 1546, "An Act To Strengthen Maine's Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract"

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves gives a rare speech from the floor, urgung members to join him in support of LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract”

    I rise to speak in favor of the pending motion to accept the majority ought to pass as amended report, and by doing so, accept a comprehensive measure that would make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and reduce future hospital costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover tens of thousands of Mainers.

    Today lawmakers have an opportunity to pay back the debt owed to our hospitals and contain the rising costs of health care for our people and our hospitals.


    We have an opportunity together to do three things in one bill:

    Help our hospitals, help working Mainers who need health care, and help our economy.

    For 4 years, I served on the Health and Human Services Committee where we would consistently hear about the amount of charity care and bad debt the hospitals absorbed and then shifted onto working families with insurance and onto Maine businesses.

    When people without insurance get sick, they often end up getting care in the emergency room — where it is the most costly, least efficient way of providing care. Just last year, the Maine Hospital Association reported that Maine hospitals provided $450 million dollars in charity care and bad debt.


    The hospitals can not afford this and neither can we!

    In the proposal before us, not only do we pay back our hospitals, but we also ensure that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick. By doing so, we reduce the charity care costs and bad debt that are cost drivers for our hospitals. This is a win for our hospitals and for every family in Maine who has insurance today.

    For several months, we’ve talked about the nearly 70,000 Mainers, many of them who are working but can’t afford health insurance, who would be eligible for coverage under this legislation.

    The number is so large and has been repeated so often, it’s easy to forget what it actually means.

    We could cut the number of people in Maine without health insurance in half.

    Seventy thousand people: That’s equivalent to the population of Aroostook County. Or Somerset and Piscatiquis counties together.

    The county by county numbers are compelling.

    Residents and hospitals in Maine’s most rural counties have the most to gain.

    · In Washington: 2,601 people would gain health care;$9.3 million in economic activity

    · In Somerset: 3,590 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity

    · In Waldo: 2,629 people would gain health care; $9.7 million in economic activity

    · In Oxford: 3,806 people would gain health care; 13.7 million in economic activity

    · In Aroostook: 4,615 people would gain health care; 16.8 million in economic activity

    · In Piscataquis: 1,067 people would gain health care; $4.0 million in economic activity

    · In Franklin: 1,878 people would gain health care; $6.9 million in economic activity

    · In Knox: 2,317 people would gain health care; $8.6 million in economic activity

    · In Hancock: 3,235 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity

    · In Lincoln: 1,817 people would gain health care; $6.6 million in economic activity

    · In Androscoggin: 5,829 people would gain health care; $20 million in economic activity

    · In Penobscot: 8,447 people would gain health care; $31.6 million in economic activity

    · In Kennebec: 5,997 people would gain health care; $20.8 million in economic activity

    · In Sagadahoc: 1,456 people would gain health care; $5.3 million in economic activity

    · In Cumberland: 12,018 would gain health care; $46.6 million in economic activity

    · In York: 8,196 would gain health care; $29.7 million in economic activity

    Now think of one of those 70,000 Mainers. Take Marie from Bangor. She has a part-time job that doesn’t provide health insurance. She also has a serious heart condition that doesn’t allow her to work full time. Without health insurance for her or her family, she is forced to choose between putting gas in her car and paying her medical and utility bills.

    This is not a hypothetical scenario. They are the hard facts for too many Mainers. And THIS is an ethical and moral dilemma for all of us.

    Unfortunately, Marie is one of tens of thousands of Mainers – many of your constituents – who are unable to afford health insurance.

    The personal stakes are high for thousands of people who could receive life-saving access to health care. But there is also a tremendous opportunity for our entire state.

    The Maine health care economy is the largest single job provider in the state of Maine. Healthcare jobs account for 1 in 4 jobs in Maine. By accepting these federal health care dollars we will inject $250 million dollars into our health care economy, creating more than 3,000 jobs.

    It is estimated that Maine hospitals would receive $163 million each year in additional revenue if we were to accept the federal dollars. This will help alleviate the current burden hospitals are facing and make sure we prevent future debt from accumulating so that we avoid a situation like this in the future.

    Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs.

    This comprehensive measure pays the debt and helps fix the underlying problem that contributes to high health care costs in the first place. We don’t just treat the symptom; we treat the problem.

    The federal government has agreed to fully cover the cost for health care for tens of thousands of Mainers for the next three years, and gradually lowers its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost over a decade. There is no cost to the state — in fact, we will save money.

    Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if we accept the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation. These numbers are also confirmed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    We are one of 10 states that will actually see our Medicaid expenditures go down!

    If we want to save money in our Medicaid account, which I believe we all do, we must accept these federal health care dollars.

    This could change the lives of tens of thousands of Maine people who fear getting sick because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they need it most.

    Accepting these federal funds to increase health care coverage for more working Mainers is morally and economically the right thing to. And it makes sense to do it as part of a comprehensive package that repays Maine’s hospital debt. It both addresses the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people. To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.

    It’s a good deal. One we cannot walk away from!

    That’s why Republican governors across the country have sized up the proposal and have decided to accept the funds.

    Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has said turning away federal Medicaid dollars would increase human suffering and further cripple hospitals and other health care providers that care for the uninsured.

    Gov. Brewer recently said, “Being governor is tough — you have to make tough decisions and you have to look at the whole state, you have to do what’s right. Without expansion, “we would’ve had to go in and get people off of Medicaid, they would still be in our hospitals, you would still be paying for them.”

    Gov. Brewer’s bill to accept these federal dollars is accurately called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Measure. Gov. Brewer gets it!

    In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie has made a similar case:

    He said in a speech before the legislature unveiling his budget. “It’s simple. We are putting people first.”

    “Expanding Medicaid is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health” and will “ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized.”

    Gov. Christie gets it!

    This should not be a political issue. We all agree we should pay the hospitals.

    But we are at an impasse over health care for tens of thousands of Maine people.

    The members of this body have a choice to make. Will you support a plan that pays the hospitals and accepts federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers? Or will you chose to deny and delay health care for tens of thousands of Maine people — putting politics ahead of the people’s health and our hospitals?

    I urge you to see this for what it is — a compromise that would benefit the state as a whole.

    This is how state government should function.

    In a divided government, neither party can get anything done by demanding all or nothing.

    I urge you to join me in supporting the pending motion. Now is the time to act.

    Thank you.”

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UPDATED: As Now 80 Maine Towns, Schools (5/29/13) Pass Resolutions Opposing LePage Budget, Gov Urges Towns “Work Together”

Posted on May 28, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

UPDATED 5/29/13: Total now stands at 80 communities and schools.

lepage head 2At long last, Governor LePage has finally chosen to directly address the ever growing number of local municipal and school district voter passed resolutions against his administration’s biannual budget with its zero revenue sharing scheme- by essentially throwing his hands in the air and telling the towns to figure out the problems among themselves.

What is going to be interesting to watch is how the GOP in the 126th Legislature react- as the governor insists on dragging them down with him.

Via press release:

      Governor Urges Town Officials to Work Together to Find Solutions to State Budget Woes

    AUGUSTA – Hoping to encourage municipal officials to offer solutions about the upcoming biennial budget proposal, Governor Paul R. LePage today released a letter to city and town officials. The Governor acknowledges in the letter the opposition many mayors, city managers and selectmen have against his budget plan, and he admits it is not a budget he enjoyed putting forward.

    “The problem is there are only three large budget areas – education, welfare and revenue sharing,” wrote Governor LePage. “We cannot cut $200 million from debt service – the State must pay its bills. The Judicial Branch costs $100 million – courts are already behind, and I will not cut them further. Other core state functions – State Police, Corrections, our Natural Resource agencies – have been cut to the bone to feed continued growth in education and welfare spending, and they cannot be cut further without reducing public safety or our future economy. That leaves only the three large pots of money, and I chose revenue sharing.”

    In the letter, the Governor attached total general fund appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014-15, which shows the bulk of the budget – 44.8 percent – allocated to education. The Department of Health and Human Services uses 35.2 percent, and the remainder of State government accounts for 20 percent of general fund spending.

    Regardless of whether Governor LePage’s proposed cuts are ultimately implemented, Republicans believe local government must participate in making government at all levels more efficient.

    head scratcherAs Mayor of Waterville for eight years, the Governor was able to balance budgets while reducing property taxes. Working together with a Democratic City Council, he was able to decrease spending and lower taxes. A temporary loss in revenue sharing does not mean that property taxes will automatically go up. That is a local choice. It is not impossible for local government to save money, consolidate services and identify priorities.’

    “Most letters I receive say we made the wrong choice and that we should restore the $200 million subsidy to municipalities, but they do not suggest other cuts that should be made at the state level,” said Governor LePage. “It is easy to find fault and hard to find solutions. I welcome any suggestions town officials have to cut elsewhere in the state budget, but it is time for everyone to set complaints aside and offer solutions.”

    Governor LePage also extended an offer to assist town and city officials if they need flexibility from the State to reduce their own budgets. “If there are proposals to reduce administration and overhead by sharing services between towns, we will support them,” he said.

Just a reminder of what the former Waterville mayor now Governor LePage said about proposed revenue share cuts to his city in 2009:

The clip’s descriptive:

    During a 2009 city council meeting, a foul-mouthed Mayor Paul LePage attacked then-Gov. Baldacci for “sticking it to the property taxpayers” when a recession-induced revenue collapse forced across-the-board budget cuts. Gov. LePage is now proposing an even greater tax shift that favors rich Mainers at the expense of Maine’s middle class.

Updated list of municipalities and schools as of 5/17/13:

map

(This list will be updated as more municipalities submit their passed resolutions to the Legislature. ~AP)

*RELATED: Video: Did 2009 Waterville Mayor Paul LePage Rip 2013 Governor LePage For Revenue Sharing Cuts To Towns, Education Funding Failures?

UPDATED: 62 (And Counting) Maine Municipalities, Schools Pass Resolutions Opposing LePage Biennual Budget (LR 1046)

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Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” and Mixed Messaging on Medicaid Expansion

Posted on May 26, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

(UPDATED: Links to more GOP floor speeches from the follow day’s second reading in the Senate are now found at the bottom of this original post. ~AP)

lepage veto 1546Originally, the intention was to simply share the various clips taken of the LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” floor debates in the Senate and House as stand-alone posts without comment. Then a funny thing happened: in reviewing them, a clear separation of messaging became apparent between the members of the GOP in the Senate and the Governor’s “Office Du Jour” (see: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo).

So, let’s take a look.

First Reading in the Senate, 5/20/13

Consistent GOP themes: LD 1546 is “Washington Politics”, “Welfare expansion”, myriad concerns over costs and having to hire either 83 new people (per Senator Mason) or 93 new people (per Senator Thibodeau) and general distrust of the federal government.

(Side note: If a business were to open in their district with 83-93 new jobs, Mason and Thibodeau would loudly cheer and claim “this was proof that Governor LePage’s policies work to help business.” Sigh…)

In short, everything Maine rejected from this party in the November election results.

So let’s go to the clips:

1. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin)

    (:36) “… back room, Pelosi-style, Washington politics on full display, in the State House.”
    (:50) “… LD 1066, (“An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”)is a massive welfare expansion that will cost Maine untold millions of dollars, not only over the next year, but over the life of the program.”
    (2:20) “… welfare expansion
    (2:47) “… So, what is this bill? Well, it’s a massive welfare expansion, to seventy thousand people…”

Perhaps some of the greater moments of irony came at the 1:20 mark, when Senator Mason claimed that the bill’s creation and process was “rude and disrespectful” of the VLA Committee and then further comments (2:00) that LD 1546 “was ram-rodded through”.

Um… anyone else remember LD 1333/ PL 90 from the 125th Legislative session? When Republicans openly admitted that they had not even read the bill? The bill that really WAS “ramrodded through”?

Republicans also claimed that it would pay for Maine’s 133,000 uninsured citizens and lower insurance costs. Um- not so much.

Onward.

2. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 1

    “Linking these two bills together that have nothing to do with one another is just what people complain about when they see it happening in Washington. Unfortunately, that kind of strong-arm politics has migrated north.

    Governor LePage is in the middle of negotiations with the federal government to try to get us a better deal on Medicaid expansion. Maybe he will be successful and maybe he won’t. But if he is, that could save the state tens of millions of dollars. If we say yes to Medicaid expansion now, we lose our negotiating leverage.”

An ongoing “negotiation” since last July that has gotten Maine nowhere… nor this past March, when the Governor demanded a ten year waiver rather than three- something no other state has been granted by the federal government. In fact, Maine is no closer that it was in February 2012. Not exactly working to close the deal but rather putting off as long as he can.

Again- onward.

3. Senator James Hamper (Oxford)

Summary: Senator Hamper is concerned with the costs, especially in light of the reported DHHS shortfalls, inabilities to pay their bills past June 12th and budget projections for FY 14-15. Yet he urges that Maine not “rush through” with Medicaid expansion. Shame that the Governor thinks that “The Administration has not been entertained”and is now putting an unilateral gag order onto any within his administration that would go before the Appropriations committee to speak regarding the proposed budget and that he and he alone will be the one to speak to the committee.

    (5:48) “Slow down.
    (6:00)“We’re saying, ‘Don’t play Washington politics‘…”

As Hamper concluded: “Fool me twice… shame on me.

Indeed.

4. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

“Charlie Brown’s football being hauled away by Lucy”. Um, okay. Not even gonna touch this one.

5. Senator Brian Langley (Hancock)

Now here is where it gets interesting- until this point, all of the GOP lawmakers have been on the same page of “Washington politics” and together poo-pooed the idea of expanding Medicaid at all. But at the 0:45 mark, we hear this from Senator Langley, who urges the bill be separated, rather than simply voted down- a far different position than all of the other Republicans that have spoken before him:

    “… because I am not opposed to it. What I am opposed to is the way it is being done here today.”

Interesting… and contrary to what Governor LePage said when he vetoed LD 1546.

    “Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.

    That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”

6. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

Assistant Minority Leader Thibodeau, same as Rep. Ken Fredette would do later in the House, attempts to delay the vote with a series of procedural questions regarding the bill’s formation and combining of separate elements. Senate President, as Speaker of the House Eves would also do later in the session the next evening, explained his ruling. Thibodeau then speaks, first complaining on timelines elapsing in what he feels is a premature time frame, and then referring to items that the Democrats claimed were ramrodded through in the 125th Legislature.

He then quoted this PPH article penned by Maine Hospital Association president Steve Michaud:


    “Medicaid expansion is a centerpiece of the federal Affordable Care Act. While hospitals support the Medicaid expansion, we vehemently disagree that the expansion should be tied in any way to whether or not the outstanding bills get paid. Hospitals don’t control whether MaineCare gets expanded; they shouldn’t be punished if the expansion fails.”

What he failed to read was the following paragraph by Michaud:

    “This kind of leveraging of one issue versus another issue is bad policymaking. It is a common tactic in Washington, D.C., and one of the hallmarks of its dysfunction.”

And at the 5:10 mark, Thibodeau echos the phrase “Washington style politics”.

Wait, five “Washingtons”? BINGO!!

Oh wait… one of them was from the PPH article. Maybe we’ll get lucky with the next speaker.

7. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 2

We already got Senator Katz down for a “Washington” mention. But we can add the good Senator from Kennebec as now a second supporter of Medicaid expansion! Note the 2:25 mark:

    “Personally speaking for myself, I have an open mind on the expansion.”

Moving along.

8. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

Well, well! Add another senator who thinks (0:40) that expanding Medicaid is a good thing! His issues are similar to Senator Langley’s in that he would prefer the bills be examined and worked upon separately.

9. Senator David Burns (Washington)

(2:10)

    “Don’t be guilty of Washington politics.”

We even get a bonus, just to be sure (2:20)!

    “…don’t get caught up in the process of Washingtonian politics.”

Okay, there it is. BINGO!

Second Day Floor Speeches

1. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

2. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin), Part 1

3. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin), Part 2

4. Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec) Part 1

5. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin) Part 3

6. Senator Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

7. Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec) Part 2

8. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

9. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

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(UPDATED) Despite Hours’ of Administration Testimony with Appropriations Cmte, Governor LePage Insists on Injecting Self into Legislative Process

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Late Friday came word that the Governor now intends to be the one to testify before Appropriations in the future- and no one else from his administration:

paul staring at camera

    Gov. Paul LePage has instructed state department commissioners to stop appearing before the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

    If someone from the administration is asked to speak before the committee, according to the governor’s office, it will be LePage himself.

    The administration’s order is in direct response to a clash last Sunday when the committee’s Democratic chairwoman refused to let LePage address the members.

    House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, condemned the move on Friday, while a LePage spokeswoman said it should not affect the committee’s work and the administration will provide all necessary information to lawmakers.

We are in unchartered waters, people…

===

Wow. Someone in the Executive branch seems to have some difficulty with understanding how Maine’s co-equal 3 branches of government as per our state’s Constitution works, ie, Article III, that “Executive = Legislative = Judicial”, let alone that his role in the process DOES have limits in power.

But, this is hardly news to anyone around Augusta… and now hardly news to the Feds as well.

48 hours after he tried to open a concluded work session he tried to gate-crash, the Governor has issued the following statement to Appropriations via press release:

    Governor to Appropriations Committee: Mainers cannot afford a tax increase

    AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage released a statement today after the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee refused to let him speak at an emergency meeting held Sunday to discuss a shortfall in welfare spending.

    100_5379“I wanted to tell the Appropriations Committee that I sent a balanced-budget proposal to the Legislature that did not require supplemental budgets or increased taxes,” said the Governor. “I also submitted a bill to pay the hospitals, which could have saved jobs and put Mainers to work. But Democratic Legislative leadership and the Dems on the Appropriations Committee are playing games.

    “Instead of taking care of the 3,100 disabled and elderly Mainers on a waiting list for MaineCare services, Legislative leadership is trying to tie another expansion of welfare to paying the hospitals. They have rejected all of my proposals to crack down on welfare fraud, and they are pushing for a budget that will have to be paid for with tax increases. I told them months ago that the supplemental budget was not balanced, but they passed it anyway.

    “Leadership has shown that it does not care about Maine taxpayers. They are determined to grow government, expand welfare and raise taxes on hard-working Mainers to pay for it all. As your Governor, I will not raise taxes. And I am not going to shut down government. That is up to the legislature.

    “My commissioners have worked long and hard to come up with budgets that make tough choices and face financial reality. The Appropriations Committee has treated them and the Office of the Governor with disrespect when we have explained that Maine taxpayers cannot afford another tax increase. If the only way I can make them understand that is for me to testify before the committee myself, then that’s what I will do.”

An interesting claim by LePage…

Here again is the video clip of Governor LePage attempting to interrupt the concluded first portion of Sunday’s Appropriations Committee work session.

Now, here is where it gets interesting- at what point “had the Administration not been entertained”, as the Governor claimed on Sunday? Or does he really see himself- and ONLY himself– as “The Administration”??

Let’s review. Here is the beginning of Sunday’s work session that started at 1:45pm, with 23:51 recorded:

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew Testifies Before Appropriations (Part 1)

Here is the conclusion of Commissioner Mayhew’s testimony with another 19:36 for DHHS/ the Administration to be heard:

DHHS Commissioner Mayhew Concludes Her Testimony; Governor LePage Enters Appropriations Hearing

And here is the testimony of Commissioner Millett- so add another 21:33 to the tally.

Financial Services Commissioner Millett Testifies; Governor LePage Listens From Audience

One doesn’t have to be a member of Appropriations to work these numbers! Both commissioners were allowed as much time as they wanted to use; at no point were either restricted from speaking freely to the committee.

agenda afaWant a second source? Well, probably not the best available, but there was my first UStream recording attempt; there are 3 clips here for review, starting at 1:44 pm and concluding just past 3pm. The last one (45:40) captures not just the conclusion of Mary Mayhew’s testimony and all of Sawin Millett’s but also (and arguably most importantly) what exactly transpired at the conclusion of that portion of the work session between AFA Chair Senator Dawn Hill and Governor LePage.

It is clear- the work session agenda item focusing on FY13 Medicaid Shortfall had concluded. The Governor tried to inject himself into the legislative portion of the budget process. And unlike the last time he did so in January 2012, this time he was correctly denied the opportunity to do so.

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Maine Governor Paul LePage Vetoes LD 1546, Medicaid Expansion Bill (Video)

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

At a Hall of Flags ceremony surrounded by GOP legislators, Governor LePage on Thursday signed the letter to veto LD 1546, characterizing LD 1546, “An Act to Strengthen Maine Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract,” as “tied payment of the hospital debt to welfare expansion” and then announced plans to reintroduce his own bill in its place.

    “Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.

    That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”

Press secretary Adrienne Bennett provided copies to the press of the letter the Governor read.

lepage veto lettr

The governor then informed those assembled of his plans to continue to hold the voter-approved bonds hostage unless his bill is passed through the Legislature, in what a press release categorized “a gesture of good faith”:

    The Governor also directed the State Treasurer to prepare the voter-authorized bonds for his signature. “I will sign them as soon as this new Governor’s Bill is enacted,” the Governor stated.
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