Appropriations Committee Agrees Unanimously to Final Hospital Payment Plan, Refinancing Liquor ContractAfter Governor LePage on May 24 publicly vetoed LD 1546, which had provisions for expanding Medicaid, refinancing the liquor contract and paying the last payment on the hospital debt (that the Democrats have been paying down since 2006 under former Governor John Baldacci), it was back to square one for the three issues.
The first, LD 1066 “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding” has now passed the Senate as amended and is working its way to the House, with expectations that it will be debated later this week- if not tomorrow.
That left the hospital debt and the liquor contract, in the form of Governor LePage’s bill LD 1555 “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals and To Provide for a New Spirits Contract” as its own stand alone bill (it was referred to Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee on May 31).
To alleviate his boredom, LePage even went to Best Buy and got himself a new entertainment center on the taxpayers. The day after the bill was referred to AFA, the Governor in his weekly radio address demanded that Democrats “stop their deceitful gamesmanship”.
It needs to be noted that this statement by LePage was released to media on the same day as the committee was assigned the bill, with the Governor’s address embargoed until the following day, Saturday June 1- when the Legislature was not in session.
Earlier this afternoon, his office decided to nag a bit more with a late press release that read in part:
“It’s been 150 days and counting,” said Governor LePage. “How much longer must the hospitals wait? It is time to end the political games and get our hospitals paid. Democratic leadership has not allowed an up-or-down vote on my plan. Let’s get that vote, let’s get the hospitals paid, and let’s get our fiscal house in order so I can release job-creating bonds before the entire construction season ends this summer.”
House Republican leaders Tuesday joined Governor LePage calling on Democratic leadership to bring forward the bipartisan measure to pay off Maine’s hospital bills without delay.
Within an hour of the Governor’s latest missive came word that the Appropriations Committee has unanimously passed an agreement on LD 1555. Here is part of their press release:
Lawmakers on the State Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved a measure to make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and refinance the state’s liquor contract.
“Today we are one step closer to another attempt at paying back the hospitals,” said Senator Dawn Hill, D-York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Recently, the governor vetoed our last effort. We all agree that we need to make the final payment to our hospitals, and it’s important we make the payment in a timely manner.”
The bill is the second measure passed this session to make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt. Governor Paul LePage vetoed the first, LD 1546, last month. This bill makes the final payment to Maine hospitals totaling $485 million in state and federal dollars. By paying the hospitals prior to October 1, 2013, the state will save $5 million. The payment would trigger a federal match of $298 million, completing final payment to Maine’s hospitals.
“This final payment closes a decade long chapter of repaying our debt to Maine’s hospitals,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Our hospitals are key to the health of our community and this final payment makes good on the lifesaving work that our nurses and doctors do for Maine families.”
One wonders how the Governor will react to getting his way… as well as the Republicans that supposedly continue to support him.