Michaud, Democrats Blast LePage on Drug Abuse Failures: “Political Theater”, “Missing in Action”

Posted on June 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

(Following up on yesterday’s #MEGOV LePage Skips NE Governors’ Regional Opioid Abuse Summit; Dismisses As “Chit Chat” post)

Yesterday Maine Governor Paul LePage skipped an important summit of all New England governors in Waltham, MA to address the ongoing regional heroin epidemic in order to speak at an Augusta press conference regarding reports of Maine’s crime rates dropping dramatically in 2013. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that despite LePage’s absence, “Maine officials would participate in the work group.”

DSC_0032Late in the afternoon, LePage sent out a press release under the guise of calling for the 126th Legislature to reconvene to address LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes”, which read more as finger-pointing than constructive in content:

    “Drug trafficking by ruthless, out-of-state street gangs is on the rise, but Democrats are still pretending Maine does not have a problem with violent drug crime. Organized drug gangs are flooding the state with cheap heroin, but Democrats remain obstinate. They refuse to provide the manpower law enforcement agencies need to prevent these criminals from addicting Mainers with this killer drug.”

    “We even identified funding to add MDEA agents, judges and prosecutors to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. That money is still sitting there. I could call the legislature back to take up my bill, but Democratic leaders could simply recess immediately and go home. I cannot force them to do something they are not willing to do.”

    “Democratic leadership stated they won’t call the legislature back unless there is an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ They don’t think that deaths from drug overdoses, babies born addicted to drugs and violent street gangs peddling poison on our street corners amount to an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ But Maine people do.”

Democratic leaders last night issued their own statements in response. Senate President Justin Alfond (Cumberland):

Senate President Justin Alfond (r)answers questions at weekly media availability meeting as Speaker of the House Mark Eves (l) looks on.

Senate President Justin Alfond (r)answers questions at weekly media availability meeting as Speaker of the House Mark Eves (l) looks on.

    “Once again, Governor LePage is stirring the pot by making up stories. If he thinks we should go back in, it is certainly within his authority to call us back,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “We have no intention of calling ourselves back in. We finished a very successful legislative session in May and during that time, Governor LePage was missing in action. Much like then, he refuses to cooperate with lawmakers on solving problems facing our state. The question isn’t what would the legislature do. Governor LePage has a track record of taking our good work and flushing it away.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N. Berwick):

    “We will not reconvene the Legislature just so the governor can veto another bill,” said Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Governor LePage has failed to lead, failed to collaborate with lawmakers and failed to stand up for Maine people. He sat on the sidelines, resorted to his ‘my way or the high way’ approach until the last moments of the legislative session and now is playing political games to distract from his poor performance as Maine’s chief executive.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Representative Mike Michaud this morning issued his own statement:

Mike Michaud at June 2014 press conference discusses plans as governor to create inspector general office, charged with investigating DHHS issues. Also pictured: State Senator Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec)

Mike Michaud at June 2014 press conference discusses plans as governor to create inspector general office, charged with investigating DHHS issues. Also pictured: State Senator Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec)

While talking tough about illegal drugs during an election year, LePage’s actions have undermined Maine’s efforts to fight drug trafficking and addiction. Since taking office, he has cut drug intervention and treatment programs, derailed a bipartisan legislative effort to increase enforcement and drug treatment in the state, and even vetoed common-sense legislation that increased access to medicine that can prevent fatal drug overdoses.

“The drug problem facing Maine is serious, real and requires true action – not political theater,” said LePage’s opponent in the race for governor, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. “Sadly, Gov. LePage is only interested in scoring political points in an election year. When it comes to doing the hard work to tackle the problem, he’s absent.

“Gov. LePage had an important opportunity to work with other governors to take a comprehensive, regional approach to an epidemic that is affecting all of our communities. Instead, he chose to play games, govern by press conference, and politicize the issue in an effort to divide this state,” said Michaud.

Maine needs a comprehensive approach to addressing Maine’s drug epidemic, and a governor who will bring people together to address this problem head on. We know what works and what doesn’t. Playing political games and simply throwing people in jail won’t solve this problem and won’t move Maine forward,” said Michaud.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Paul LePage and Gary Alexander: A Timeline

Posted on June 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

(UPDATE: Now cross posted at Daily Kos, Dirigo Blue and The New Maine Times. Originally posted 5/29/14.)

UPDATE: A bit of quick background on this post. While Mainers knew that Tea Party Maine Governor Paul LePage, who won election in 2010 with 38% of the vote, was virulently anti-ACA and fought hard against multiple attempts to expand Medicaid in our state (to date, five bills have been vetoed and then sustained by the GOP in the Legislature), many did not know to what extent the LePage Administration worked or what steps lead to where we found ourselves last week as news of the #LePlagiarism scandal first broke. Thus it became necessary to piece together all of the various known elements and create this timeline, illustrating who Gary Alexander is and how he became known to the administration (LePage in 2011 first offered him the DHHS position that eventually went to Mary Mayhew), as well as the various actions taken by the Governor and his staff.

A year ago, most in Maine had no idea never heard of Gary Alexander. That is no longer the case, as now federal authorities are now looking into the matter.

Gary Alexander and associate Erik Randolph exit Maine HHS Committee hearing, 1/14/14.

Gary Alexander and associate Erik Randolph exit Maine HHS Committee hearing, 1/14/14.

  • December 2010- Gary Alexander, the former head of Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services and current Secretary for the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) publishes “Rhode Island Medicaid Reform: Global Consumer Choice Compact Waiver” through the Galen Institute, on Rhode Island letterhead.

    It is later (2012) used as a cited source in Pacific Research Institute president and CEO’s Sally Pipes’ e-book, “The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle Obamacare”. Pipes, a well known critic of the Affordable Care Act, goes before Congress’ House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to denounce ACA and is found by Mother Jones investigative reporting to have much of her and PRI’s supposed works to be that of ghost writers:

      If Pipes seems supernaturally prolific, there’s a good reason. To assist with her written output, PRI employs a DC-based ghostwriting and PR firm with drug and health care industry clients. That firm, Keybridge Communications, researches, drafts, and edits much of Pipes’ published work in an arrangement that’s unusual for someone at a supposedly independent think tank.

      Several former PRI staffers tell Mother Jones it was well known within the organization that Pipes relied heavily on Keybridge, particularly for her books, and did far from all of her own writing.

  • 1/5/11- Paul R. LePage, Sr. is sworn in as the 74th Governor of Maine.
  • 1/12/11- Alexander is named as Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s pick as that state’s Public Welfare Secretary.
  • 1/20/11- RI NPR tells of how Alexander is reported to have published an unauthorized report on that state’s global waiver:

      Elena Nicolella- the director of RI’s Medicaid program- says there’s very little in Alexander’s report that’s accurate. In fact, it was published without the permission of the Department of Human Services, even though the state seal appears on every page of the report. Nicolella says RI asked The Galen Institute to take that seal off, but it hasn’t and she’s considering a call to the state’s attorneys.
  • 2/1/11- Independent Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee’s administration publicly disputes the claimed numbers of monies saved by Alexander to that state’s Medicaid programs:

      … a spokesman in Chafee’s Health and Human Services Office said officials there do not know how Alexander came up with that number, and could not give their own.

      “The secretary of Health and Human Services is currently reviewing the assumptions, accomplishments and savings projections associated with the global waiver,” spokesman David Burnett said in a statement last week. “Without a detailed understanding of the author’s assumptions, it is difficult to offer a comment on the veracity of the statements contained in the Galen Institute article.”

  • 2/1/11- Rhode Island NPR runs a story on multiple versions discovered and edits of Gary Alexander’s report:

      … a report by RI’s former secretary for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services raised some eyebrows a few weeks ago for making unauthorized claims about RI’s Global Medicaid Waiver. His report appeared on the website of the free market think tank the Galen Institute.

      But now it appears that there were two reports- the current one posted in January and another, featuring stronger language and some different numbers, posted at some point last year.

  • 2/10/11- In lieu of a budget, Governor LePage presents a “jobs bill” before the joint convention of the 125th Legislature. Details of the LePage “jobs bill” are released the following day, among them being denial of Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, health and disability benefits for non-citizen families who are in Maine legally and imposing an arbitrary 5 year cap on TANF funds for all Maine families.
  • 2/23/11-Governor LePage is recorded at a press conference as saying (regarding BPA’s usage and estrogen) that he has yet to see enough science to support a ban on BPA, a common additive to plastics that some research suggests may interfere with hormone levels and could cause long-term problems:

      “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”

    On that same day it is reported that Dr. Dora Mills, the former head of Maine’s Center for Disease Control,  was fired from her post as Medical Director of MaineCare. Mills had testified months earlier that BPA removal should be a priority under the Kid-Safe Products Act of 2008. Soon afterwards, other senior DHHS appointees as fired as well.

  • March 2011- Maine Hospital Association lobbyist Mary Mayhew is named head of DHHS. Among those who voice immediate concerns about her hiring is Senator Margaret Craven (D-Lewiston):

    An irate DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew answers questions asked by Rep. Peter Stuckey (D-Portland) on January 14. Beside Mayhew is Gary Alexander, who had previously spoken to the HHS committee about his infamous report denouncing Medicaid expansion.

    An irate DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew answers questions asked by Rep. Peter Stuckey (D-Portland) on January 14. Beside Mayhew is Gary Alexander, who had previously spoken to the HHS committee about his infamous report denouncing Medicaid expansion.

      While legislators unanimously praise Mayhew’s intelligence and toughness, some Democrats opposed her nomination because of her lack of experience managing people and money.

      “She has never managed a budget, and it’s a $3.2 billion budget,” said Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, one of three Democrats who opposed Mayhew’s confirmation in committee. “She has 3,500 employees … She’s very smart, but smart isn’t going to do it all the time.”

      Mayhew’s role as a hospital lobbyist and her lack of experience with social services and welfare programs also raised concerns.

      “I think that is her job — to stand up for the vulnerable people,” Craven said. Craven and others said they worry that Mayhew’s lack of experience will make it harder for her to stand up to political pressures to cut safety net programs.

  • 5/15/11- Via New York Times: “Rhode Island’s Medicaid Experiment Becomes a Talking Point for Budget Cutters” :

      The Rhode Island agreement shares the same goals as the block-grant plan proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and contained in the budget resolution that passed the House last month, said Conor Sweeney, a spokesman for Mr. Ryan.

      During a Senate Finance Committee hearing in February, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, also pointed to the experiment in Rhode Island as a success.

      “Why don’t we just block-grant every state, take the rules off and let them do these strategies,”
      he asked. “Rhode Island’s obviously already figured it out.”

      Among the governors who support the idea are Chris Christie of New Jersey, who wants to pursue an agreement of his own with the federal government, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who wrote an article for the Op-Ed page in The New York Times last month contending that states’ success with such agreements “shows that we can move beyond demonstration projects and let the federal government relinquish control over Medicaid.”

    The article also made note of the multiple versions of Alexander’s report, huge mathematical shifts in projected savings without explanation and that there was no transparency in how or why the numbers changed:

      In an early version of the paper, Mr. Alexander said that Rhode Island had saved about $150 million during the first 18 months of the agreement. A later version lowered the estimate to $110 million. The paper does not detail how he arrived at those numbers, nor does it explain the reason for the change.

  • Sept 2011- Galen Institute sends out a newsletter to its members with an item under its “STATES ISSUES” section of:

  • 9/25/11- Gary Alexander in his capacity as Secretary of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee in DC regarding reauthorization of the TANF program.
  • 12/22/12- GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made note of the Alexander/ Rhode Island model “Mitt Romney says Rhode Island demonstrated that it can run Medicaid more cost-effectively than the federal government”, in which Politifact chewed both Romney and Gary Alexander’s report up:

      Gary Alexander, who was secretary of health and human services when the waiver was approved, published a paper with the conservative Galen Institute, pegging the savings at $110 million over 18 months, or $73 million a year.

      The Romney campaign cites the Alexander paper as evidence that Rhode Island saved money.

      The liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report saying Alexander was wrong because any savings actually resulted from more than $400 million Rhode Island received in federal stimulus money in 2009 and the shifting of some costs previously paid by the state to the federal government.

      Rhode Island’s current Health and Human Services secretary, Steven Costantino, asked The Lewin Group, a consulting firm, to do a less-partisan analysis after Carcieri left. According to that group’s estimates, the waiver itself saved $23 million over three years, or $7.6 million annually, Costantino said.

      In addition, the deal also provided a $42.7-million windfall for the state over the same three years because the federal government started sharing the costs of some health services, he said.

      Total savings per year: just under $22 million.

  • 1/20/13- Americans For Prosperity PA urges Pennsylvania “Let’s Not Double-Down on a Failing Medicaid Program” and reference Gary Alexander within the write up:

      “The federal government seeks to entice Pennsylvania and other states into expanding their programs by promising to pay all the upfront costs during the initial years and then pulls back in the outlying ones. However, this promise is not altogether true. The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Gary Alexander, testified before a congressional committee last month that the expansion would cost $222 million to the state taxpayers in administrative and other costs during the first year, $378 million the second year and $364 million the third year, rising to an estimated $883 million by fiscal year 2020-21.”
    (Via BDN) David Bohrer | U.S. Chamber of Commerce Maine Gov. Paul LePage appeared with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce summit in April 2013. Gary Alexander, the consultant hired by LePage to analyze Maine’s Medicaid and welfare programs, stepped down as Corbett’s welfare chief in February 2013.

    (Via BDN) David Bohrer | U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    Maine Gov. Paul LePage appeared with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce summit in April 2013. Gary Alexander, the consultant hired by LePage to analyze Maine’s Medicaid and welfare programs, stepped down as Corbett’s welfare chief in February 2013.

  • 2/4/13: Pennsylvania confirms that Gary Alexander is stepping down his $143,362-a-year post as that state’s Welfare Secretary by the end of the month:

  • 3/6/13-Alexander quickly lands a lucrative 4 month consulting gig in Arkansas, hired by the Republican controlled legislative budget panel in that state:

      The Arkansas News reported on Tuesday that the former secretary’s firm, Alexander Group LLC, was awarded a $220,000 contract to conduct an independent review as lawmakers there consider an alternative to the proposed Medicaid expansion.

      Alexander’s firm was chosen because of its national reputation, according to the report. In addition to serving in the Cabinet post in Pennsylvania, Alexander previously had served as secretary of Rhode Island’s Department of Health and Human Services.

      However, some members of the panel that hired Alexander’s firm had concerns about how independent Alexander would be in conducting the Medicaid expansion evaluation since their review found him to be critical of President Obama’s health care law while he was serving as Pennsylvania’s welfare secretary.

  • 8/3/13- The Alexander Group Reportlanguishes with the Arkansas legislature pending review, rather than be released publicly:
      Marty Garrity, director of the Bureau of Legislative Research, informs me that Alexander HAS completed a report for the $220,000 he was paid. He submitted it July 5. It’s substantial, maybe 75 to 100 pages, she said.

      It remains secret. It is classified as a legislative “working paper” until a committee of the Legislative Council reviews it. Alexander is expected to appear to talk about it when and if that day occurs. It’s currently in the hands of the executive committee of the council, co-chaired by Sen. Paul Bookout and Rep. John Edwards. I’ve been unable to get an indication so far of plans for release.

  • September 2013- Emails back and forth regarding the Alexander Group contract fly back and forth between LePage administration members, with an apparent lack of following an executive order issued by then Governor John Baldacci dated March 23, 2010 in regards to procurement review:
  • 9/16/13-DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Gary Alexander sign a no-bid $925,200 contract for the Alexander Group to perform similar analysis to the work done for Arkansas. It would be another two months (11/20/13) before this would be made known publicly.

    Within the contract are specific dates as to when information by the consultant would be released, specific work to be performed by the Alexander Group, and that the group is required to maintain a Liability Insurance policy to protect against lawsuit costs.

    Completion of the final report is to be by 3/15/14.

    Payment for the work would come from the following sources:

      1. State General Funds $454,875.17
      2. Dedicated/ Special Revenues $276,644.83
      3. Federal Funds $193,680.00
      4. TANF $69,120.00
      5. Medicaid Admin (et al) $124,560.00
  • 9/25/13- Maine Governor Paul LePage signs off on the contract:

      Alexander’s hiring has also put LePage on the defensive. In December, the governor sought to distance himself from the no-bid contract, telling WABI-TV in Bangor, “I don’t know, I didn’t hire him (Alexander), DHHS did … I don’t know much about what they did, so.”

      Emails obtained by the Press Herald through a Freedom of Access Act request show that the governor personally endorsed the contract.

      On Sept. 25, Mayhew notified LePage’s assistant that the contract had been finalized. In a hand-written note atop the email, the governor wrote, “Go for it!”

  • 11/18/13- The Alexander Group presents its $220,000 report, dated 7/5/13, to the state of Arkansas.
  • 11/20/13-It is announced that Maine is partnering with the Alexander Group “to assist in Medicaid program improvements and to bolster existing efforts in program integrity”:
    Mayhew fields  questions from Maine media regarding the $900k+ Alexander Report, while Gary Alexander stands silently by.

    Mayhew fields questions from Maine media regarding the $900k+ Alexander Report, while Gary Alexander stands silently by.

      The work will include a study of the optional Medicaid expansion that has been offered to the state as part of ObamaCare. The study will include an assessment of the financial impact of Medicaid expansion in both the short- and long-term, as well as the impact on other state priorities, including those currently served by MaineCare. The study will also consider potential areas of flexibility for the state, which may include requests for additional flexibility from the federal government to manage MaineCare by state rules instead of federal regulations.

      DHHS and the Alexander Group will undertake a complete assessment of all welfare systems within DHHS to determine how program reforms and additional flexibility can add efficiency, improve patient outcomes and achieve cost savings. A focus of this work will be reducing waitlists and providing appropriate services for the elderly and disabled.

      “We are excited about the opportunity to work with such a knowledgeable group of experts,” said Mary Mayhew, the Commissioner of DHHS. “In the constantly shifting landscape of the Affordable Care Act and ever-changing rules from Washington, it will be extremely helpful to have someone with significant Medicaid experience lending a hand to our program reform efforts.”

    It is learned that Sam Adolphsen, a former staffer at the Maine Heritage Policy Center who now works in the governor’s administration, will be one of the state’s designees to work with the Alexander Group. Adolphsen’s background is in business administration, not social services or health care. He would be named in the contract as the person responsible for the monitoring the performance. In 2014, he would be promoted twice more within DHHS and be named DHHS chief operating officer in May 2014.

  • 12/10/13- The 126th Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee meet to discuss multiple DHHS management failures, including the state’s bungled MaineCare rides system, Riverview’s decertification with resulting loss of federal funds, and the no-bid $1 million contract to the Alexander Group. From a media advisory:

      The committee will have the opportunity for the first time, to examine the nearly $1 million, no-bid contract the LePage Administration signed with Gary Alexander from the Alexander Group. The contract includes the issuance of a five part study reviewing the impact of expanding the state’s health insurance program, Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. The first study was due on December 1 but Alexander missed the deadline and to date has not submitted the report as stipulated in the nearly $1 million contract.

        “For the price of Governor LePage’s Tea Party crony, the state could have hired 23 people at Riverview— and we’d be one step closer toward getting recertified and recuperating the $20 million we’ve already lost,” said Craven. “Decisions like these do nothing to help the people of Maine or the financial health of our state.”

  • 12/19/13- “LePage fends off accusation of ‘cronyism’ in hiring controversial welfare consultant” (BDN)

      LePage said he has met with Alexander just three times: One of those meetings took place in 2010, when LePage offered the Rhode Island conservative the job as Maine’s commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, which the governor said Alexander turned down for salary reasons.

      LePage subsequently hired Mary Mayhew, a Democrat who lobbied for the Maine Hospital Association, as DHHS commissioner.

      LePage said Thursday that he also has met with Alexander twice since then; once in March and once more recently, after Alexander’s firm was hired on a nearly $1 million sole-source contract awarded by Mayhew in September.

  • 1/6/14- In a PPH Op-Ed, Maine is warned by PA state auditor Eugene DePasquale about Alexander:

      “Alexander served as secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare for just two years. He came to us from Rhode Island and was touted as an efficiency expert who would save our state millions in Medicaid dollars. Instead, we experienced just the opposite.

      For example, under Alexander’s leadership, 89,000 children were removed from our health care programs, and his agency’s mismanagement of the contract to pay home care workers could cost taxpayers as much as $7 million per year.

      In November 2013, my department released the full results of our independent audit of the mismanagement of the home care worker contract during Alexander’s tenure. What we found should serve as a warning to Maine taxpayers and policymakers.”

  • 1/10/14- DHHS claims that per the Alexander Group Report, Medicaid Expansion could cost Maine $807 Million or more, with MaineCare enrollment potentially growing by nearly 100k new enrollees in the first two years alone.

      “This report highlights the fact that Maine’s General Fund is on track to be consumed by the MaineCare program, even without expanding eligibility,” said Gary Alexander. “Expanding eligibility for MaineCare to the able-bodied residents of working age will place at risk existing commitments Maine has to their traditional Medicaid recipients: those who are disabled and those who are elderly.”

      “This study reinforces the unsustainable costs associated with MaineCare expansion and the importance of returning the program to one that cares for its most vulnerable,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “We cannot, in good conscience, ask the taxpayers of Maine to foot this very large bill to care for able-bodied adults. We must prioritize spending to ensure that the elderly and people with development disabilities who are on wait lists—sometimes for more than two years—get the critical services they need first and foremost.”

  • 1/14/14- Bangor Daily News prints a scathing editorial, “Taxpayers foot the bill for LePage manifesto on Medicaid expansion”, blasting both the LePage administration and the so-far released portions of the Alexander Group Report.
  • 1/14/14- Gary Alexander appears to speak about his report before HHS Committee, accompanied by associate Erik Randolph and DHHS Commissioner Mayhew. He speaks very little to either the committee members or the Maine press, deferring to Mayhew.

    Democrats on the HHS Committee had the following response:

      Fundamental flaws in the controversial Alexander report on Medicaid in Maine were exposed today during a hearing on its findings in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

      HHS Chairs Sen. Craven and Rep. Farnsworth question DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew during public hearing. Also pictured, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville)

      HHS Chairs Sen. Craven and Rep. Farnsworth question DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew during public hearing. Also pictured, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville)

      The controversial report used inflated and inaccurate poverty data; nearly doubled the amount of people that would receive care under the law; and failed to factor in the economic activity and savings offsets the state would see from accepting federal health dollars to cover more Mainers, according to lawmakers and economic and healthcare experts.

      “The research was skewed. Governor LePage got what he paid for,”
      said Rep. Dick Farnsworth of Portland, the House chair of the HHS committee. “We are looking at getting to real data that will give us real insight. We do not find it in these results which have become campaign talking points masquerading as a report.”

      “The report recommendations are not a surprise. This is nothing more than a campaign plan for Governor LePage. Unfortunately, the taxpayers of Maine paid for it,” said Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston, the Senate chair of the HHS committee. “Let’s get beyond campaign issues and move on to the real issues — like getting 70,000 Mainers including 3,000 veterans access to life-saving health insurance.”

      Farnsworth noted that the governor spent nearly $1 million in taxpayers dollars for the Alexander Group report when reliable data from independent sources confirms savings.

      Governor Paul LePage awarded the controversial consultant Gary Alexander the $1 million no-bid contract last September despite Alexander’s record of mismanagement and failed policies in Pennsylvania. As the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Alexander cost Pennsylvania taxpayers $7 million and took healthcare away from 89,000 children.

      During the hearing, non-partisan representatives from both the Maine Hospital Association and from Maine Equal Justice Partners echoed lawmakers concerns about the errors and assumptions in the report.

    No-bid contracts in Maine must meet certain criteria as noted in the state’s “Sole Source Justification Guidelines”:

  • 1/15/14-Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) introduce a pair of Medicaid expansion bills to the HHS Committee:

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

      Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D- N Berwick) presented his bill, LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People” before the Health and Human Services Committee in a packed public hearing.

      The second bill that came up for public hearing yesterday before the HHS Committee was presented by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. His bill, LD 1640, “An Act To Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt”, is designed to address the specific needs of Maine’s service members and other Mainers who find themselves excluded from the existing Affordable Care Act.

    Both bills would pass the Legislature, be vetoed by the Governor and have that veto sustained later in session.

  • 1/15/14- Weekly Address Of Governor Paul LePage: Maine Has An Obligation To Help Our Most Vulnerable And Pay Its Bills (MPW post)

      “This week our Administration provided Mainers and lawmakers The Feasibility of Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act. If Maine opts to expand Medicaid as it did 10 years ago, the report estimates it will cost the state more than $800 million—and that’s without additional risk factors. It does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be shifted onto the middle class who buy their insurance. This will cause private insurance premiums skyrocket.

      The report also predicts between 31 and 36 percent of all Mainers will be receiving taxpayer-funded health care by 2023. In other words, for every three Mainers, one will be on Medicaid at the taxpayer’s expense.

      The funny thing is that the guy who wrote the report has been very successful in getting the federal government to work with states on improving its Medicaid program. So, why aren’t liberals listening to what he has to say?”

  • 1/20/14- It is first reported that DHHS officials worked with the Alexander Group in revising the report multiple times before it was released to the public:

      The document appears to have been edited to present a more seemingly detached analysis of the Medicaid expansion equations. The most politically sensitive passages were softened or removed outright: Sections outlining poor health care outcomes for those enrolled in Medicaid were trimmed or stricken, as were segments and a related appendix outlining the political breakdown of Medicaid expansion, noting “there appears to be a partisan pattern on how states are deciding to expand.”

      An initial version even suggested that considering expansion at all was a waste of time.

      Alexander originally wrote that, given the current level of spending on MaineCare, “there seems to be little point in talking about the expansion scenario that significantly increases costs and accelerates the cost growth rate.” That passage was removed in the final report. Other language changes in the report de-emphasize forecasts that may bring into question efforts by Republican LePage to create jobs and grow the state’s economy.

      The first draft calls the dramatic increase in Maine’s poverty rate “phenomenal.” The final report referred to the increased poverty rate as simply “one causal factor” driving Medicaid growth.

      The final version of the report thanked DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and her entire staff, and made clear the impact the department had on the study. Alexander wrote that the department contributed not only data necessary for analysis, but recommendations on the report itself, which were included in the final draft.

  • 1/21/14- Maine media report multiple revisions were made between December 16 and January 10 to the report, with copies of four different versions linked.
  • 2/10/14- HHS Chair Rep. Richard Farnsworth puts forth LD 1794,“An Act To Cancel the No-bid Alexander Group Contract To Produce Savings in Fiscal Year 2013-14”. The bill would later pass the Democratic controlled 126th Legislature, but is vetoed by Governor LePage. That veto is later sustained.
  • 2/17/14- PPH reports that “officials at DHHS are weighing whether to defend Alexander’s Medicaid study or divert attention from it”:

      On Feb. 11, DHHS spokesman John Martins emailed Mayhew, Sam Adolphsen, the deputy finance director, and Nick Adolphsen, a legislative liaison. He discussed a memo from Erik Randolph, a member of the Alexander Group, that presumably defended the Medicaid study. Sam Adolphsen wrote Friday that he liked the memo, but questioned whether the agency should wait for the “next attack” to make it public.

      Martins replied: “We are succeeding on all fronts on getting the expansion message out and the focus on the (Alexander Group) report has died down.”

      Martins went on to request “quotable and reliable data” to support the administration’s claim that Medicaid expansion recipients could qualify for subsidies in the federal health care law. He noted that communications directors “across the state have been asked to do (newspaper opinion columns) regarding the impact of Medicaid spending on their programs.”

      He concluded: “We haven’t lost anything – we have this (memo) ready for the next salvo – but I think if we have data, especially data that we can report as new, Commissioner, we can accomplish your message objective without tying it to the (Alexander Group) report.”

  • 2/18/14- Gary Alexander pens an article “Resisting the Medicaid Temptation” for the Galen Institute, which gets picked up by Washington Times:
    Maine Gov. Paul LePage takes a sip from a coffee mug displaying a "no new taxes" message, April 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

    Maine Gov. Paul LePage takes a sip from a coffee mug displaying a “no new taxes” message, April 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

      “In a day when governors and legislatures need more resources for priorities that benefit all citizens, such as education and transportation, the promising of a bigger stream of federal revenue may be too enticing to forgo.

      Yet a recent economic forecast and risk analysis we conducted for the state of Maine flatly contradicts that glowing assessment, suggesting that the hope of using Medicaid expansion to solve state budget woes is as empty as President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

      Ten-year projections made on the basis of current expectations reveal that even if the state were to expand Medicaid eligibility, Maine would continue to experience rising rates of poverty and increases in both median and per-capita income.”

  • 2/19/14- Weekly Address Of Governor Paul LePage: Medicaid Spending Is Consuming The General Fund (MPW post)

    lepage head 2

      “Medicaid now consumes 25 percent of all General Fund revenue. If liberals succeed in expanding welfare again, Medicaid will devour 45 percent of the General Fund.

      State government has already eliminated or reduced funding for education, law enforcement, economic development and protection of our natural resources. Quite simply, Medicaid is cannibalizing revenue from all other state agencies.

      That means the state cannot fully pay its 55 percent share of local education costs. It cannot hire more Maine State Troopers or repair National Guard facilities. The state cannot adequately promote fishing and hunting programs or conduct scientific marine research on Maine’s fisheries. The state cannot expand job-training opportunities or properly fund programs for environmental emergencies. Everything the State of Maine does is adversely impacted by Medicaid spending.”

  • 2/24/14- The LePage administration demanded that the communications directors supply public statements in regard to how expansion would adversely affect their budgets to back up the governor’s claims and then makes the requested statements public in bulk as part of a press release, entitled “Maine Agencies Cannibalized by Welfare Spending”.
  • 2/26/14- Senate Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Augusta) presents his and caucus member Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Wilton)’s Medicaid expansion compromise bill including a three year “sunset provision” to HHS. The day before, the pair unveil their plan to members of their party during a caucus meeting and then take their pitch to the editorial boards of two of the state’s daily newspapers. The bill, LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program” was carried over last July and as such, would need 2/3s vote as an emergency bill and to override a veto from Governor LePage, who is vehemently opposed to expansion. Democratic leaders praise the move:
    Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

    Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

      “We view the proposal as a step forward after months of debate over how to ensure more families can have access to a family doctor,”  said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Our priority has always been securing life-saving health care for 70,000 Maine people. While we have been skeptical of managed care programs in the past, we look forward to hearing the details of the Republican proposal. We will want to make sure that the emphasis is on quality treatment; not simply denying care.”

      “The people of Maine are counting on us to do right by them. They’ve put their faith and their trust in us and asked us to represent them to the best of our abilities,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Health care is a right, and lawmakers who get health care from the state should think twice before denying it to their constituents.”

    The bill would ultimately fail to get past Governor LePage, the fifth attempt to expand Medicaid in the 126th Legislative session.

  • 2/26/14- HHS Chairs Senator Margaret Craven and Rep. Richard Farnsworth pen a joint opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News, “Why the Legislature should cancel the Alexander Group contract”.
  • 2/26/14- DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew hosted a large media event in Governor LePage’s cabinet room with a variety of department heads dutifully taking their turns and standing to speak to the gathered Maine press about how their budgets were being “cannibalized” by the monies going into DHHS, as well as a new LePage assertion that “Medicaid Expansion is Bad for the Environment”.
  • 4/9/14- “How the Koch brothers are killing Medicaid expansion in Maine”

      Opponents of accepting federal health care funding have taken a similar approach to health care policy as they have to public opinion in Maine. With every independent study confirming that expansion will boost the state’s economy while saving lives, they needed some way to muddy the waters. Luckily, they had the perfect candidate to stir up the bottom: former Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander.

      Alexander is no stranger to FGA (Foundation for Government Accountability) and ALEC. In 2011, ALEC’s newsletter featured Alexander’s Medicaid privatization ideas as the #2 way to “push back against ObamaCare.” In 2012, Alexander and Herrera headlined an anti-Medicaid expansion panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2013, Alexander joined Herrera for a conference call with FGA supporters.

      “I thank you, Christie, and your great organization for organizing this,” said Alexander as they ended the call. “You guys are a tremendous repository for all of this information and I look forward to continuing to work with you as we solve the country’s most vexing problems.”

  • April 2014- The original contract is amended to give the Alexander Group an additional two months to complete the final portions of its report, pushing the target due date from May 15 to July 15.
  • 5/13/14- Although more than half of the monies being paid to the Alexander Group and a deadline looming in a few days for the final installment of the five part report to be released, the LePage administration says that only the previously released first portion has been received (“Despite paying welfare consultant more than $500,000, Maine has received only one section of 5-part study”):

      “To my knowledge, just the report we released in January has been delivered thus far,” John Martins, a DHHS spokesman, wrote in an email message Monday.

      Under the terms of the contract that report — the first of five Alexander was to deliver — was due on Dec. 1, 2013. The other portions were due as follows: two on Dec. 20, one on March 15 and the last on May 15.

      The report due Dec. 1 was delivered to DHHS on Dec. 16, but was withheld from the public for more than three weeks while LePage reviewed its contents.

  • 5/16/14- The long awaited and overdue second portion of the Alexander Group report is finally released.
  • 5/17/14- Critics quickly respond to the newly released document (“LePage paid an expensive consultant to recommend what he already tried — and failed — to do”):

      One doesn’t have to read too far into the Alexander Group’s second report to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to realize the state hasn’t gotten its money’s worth. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration spent $925,000 on a no-bid contract for the state welfare system consultant, yet it’s difficult to read the Alexander Group’s 228-page document and take it seriously.

      Based on the Alexander Group’s description of its work and characterization of its own members’ credentials, you’d expect a tremendously useful report with unique insight and innovative policy solutions to some of the genuine challenges facing Maine’s public assistance programs and the low-income people they serve.

      Instead, what Maine has received is essentially a research paper on the structure of the public assistance programs Maine DHHS administers, along with unoriginal policy recommendations that aren’t backed up by analysis.

  • 5/21/14-Maine Governor Paul LePage continues to tout the hiring of Gary Alexander and the report in his weekly address prepared the previous day, “Medicaid Expansion Has Been Disastrous For Other States”:

    “As we said over and over again, there is no free lunch. These states (Arkansas, California and Rhode Island) are facing enormous costs because of Medicaid expansion and ObamaCare. We did not want Maine to get stuck in that position. That’s why we hired a consultant to advise us on how best to manage all of our welfare programs.

    The consultant just released the bulk of his report, detailing what we are doing right and what we can do to improve our welfare programs. Before they could even read it, Democrats jumped up to attack the report. They just won’t face facts.

    Take time to read it before you go on the attack.”

    Bangor Daily News first breaks the story in an editorial, then discusses the apparent plagiarism within the newly released portion of the Alexander Group Report, with one of those from whom the work is lifted weighing in:

      “We don’t think professional standards would include excerpting significant chunks of text without quotation marks,” said Liz Schott, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ welfare reform and income support division and one of the report’s three authors. “They listed text and made it appear like their own, and, yes, that appears to be plagiarism.

      It starts with a list about advantages to subsidized work programs. Then, the Alexander Group discusses the experience of other states that have started subsidized work programs. For about two full pages, pages 110 and 111, the Alexander Group uses the CBPP’s work, virtually word or word.

    Rep. Mike Michaud, who is running for Governor against LePage as the Democratic nominee, takes to Twitter to blast the administration:

    Maine Democratic Party also responds:

    Another victim is quoted:

      LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for the family income support division of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Wednesday morning that in her experience, what the Alexander Group did went far beyond normal or acceptable. The BDN found that pages of the Alexander report appeared nearly verbatim from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ earlier study.

      “I have never seen this,” said Pavetti. “It’s literally two pages of text [that were copied]. It’s not a small piece of text.”

  • 5/23/14-Portland Press Herald publishes the examples of plagerism (“Compare The Alexander Group report and its plagiarized sources”) with an example identically lifted from Jacqueline Kauff’s 2008 report, “Assisting TANF Recipients Living with Disabilities to Obtain and Maintain Employment”.

    The silence of LePage’s supporters is questioned, with millions of dollars cited as examples (“Bill Nemitz: As money goes to waste, LePage supporters’ silence is deafening”) and a quote from Alexander regarding the plagiarism charges:

      “Yes, there are footnoting problems with the report that escaped our review process, but there was no intention to plagiarize,” Alexander said in an email to the Portland Press Herald late Wednesday. “The report does provide credit to the work of others but unfortunately not in the proper format. We regret the error. We will be resubmitting a corrected report.”

    Late in the afternoon, LePage issues a terse statement on the Alexander Group’s plagiarism scandal:

      “I am gravely concerned about these accusations and we will get to the bottom of it. Upon learning of this information today, we have taken immediate action and suspended all payments to the Alexander Group. We will continue to look into these accusations and will take further action, including termination of the contract, if warranted.”

    Democrats quickly weigh in.

      Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland): “Mainers have been swindled by Gary Alexander and for six months, Governor LePage and his Republican lawmakers have looked the other way,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Undoubtedly, this discredited report is an embarrassment for the LePage administration. And Governor LePage’s request to suspend payments is small change compared to the fleecing of our state’s coffers. I urge my Republican colleagues to join me in demanding a full refund from the Alexander Group. We should not be paying premium pricing for pulp fiction.”

      Speaker of the House Mark Eves: “Maine taxpayers deserves a full refund. It’s not enough to suspend payments for this flawed and controversial contractor. It’s fraudulent work. No amount fraud should be tolerated. The contract should be canceled like we have been saying since day one. This has been an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars meant only to boost the Governor’s election campaign.”

      Rep. Richard Farnsworth (D-Portland), House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and sponsor of LD 1794: “This so-called report from the Alexander Group has been a debacle from the moment the governor secretly gave this nearly $1 million no-bid contract to his Tea Party crony. The taxpayers should not have to pay a single cent for this miserable piece of work, let alone a half million dollars. The people of Maine deserve a full refund. This is not simply an oversight on the part of the Alexander Group and the administration, it is an ethical failure.”

      HHS Committee member Senator Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville): “Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend news. I’m sure the administration wants this to get lost in the weekend. But remember this: there were concerns right from the beginning about how this contract was granted. The Alexander Group has never turned in anything on time. And now plagiarism. We had a bill to cancel payments for this ill advised contact because it has been first and foremost a political contract that has produced political documents. Not a wise use of our tax dollars. We couldn’t get a veto proof vote on that bill. And now this.”

      HHS Committee members Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) and Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) listen to testimony during the public hearings for LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842.

      HHS Committee members Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) and Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) listen to testimony during the public hearings for LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842.


      HHS Committee member Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook):
      “As I’ve said numerous times, this all started with the procurement, which was illegal, done in secret and never should have moved forward. Gary Alexander and his “group” have no experience as consultants and our DHHS was the first state agency to ever hire them. They never would have won a competitive procurement and never should have been given a contract.”
  • 5/24/14- Much more plagiarism within the newly released portion of the Alexander Group Report discovered (“Mike Tipping: ‘LePlagiarism’ far more extensive than previously believed”):

      A new analysis of the report by a plagiarism detection expert shows that many additional, lengthy sections were lifted verbatim from other sources with little or no attribution. It’s now clear that Alexander was dishonestly passing off the work of others as his own.

      Sometimes, as with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paper, the source is mentioned, but it’s not made obvious that content was copied wholesale. This is the case on Page 134 of the latest report, which references a paper by Mathematica Policy Research and then uses text from that document nearly verbatim without acknowledging the quotation.

      Similarly, on Page 43 of the MaineCare report, a footnote reads, “Most information modified from Pewstates.org information on the states,” but what isn’t noted is that most of the text on the next four pages was lifted from a specific article on Pew’s Stateline news service.

      In several other cases, no attribution is given at all. This is true of portions of the reports copied wholesale from policy papers published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, as well as text taken from a number of Maine government documents.

    Examples of where Alexander simply copied his own work done in the Arkansas report are shown as well.

    Later that afternoon, Governor LePage suspends payment to Alexander.

  • 5/28/14- Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves send a letter to Governor LePage, demanding that the state’s contract with the Alexander Group be cancelled immediately and that the monies already paid to the consultant be recouped.

      “From day one, the Alexander contract has been highly questionable. The no-bid contract received no public review, no opportunity for legislative oversight and no adequate vetting of this contractor. Worse, it used federal funds intended to help struggling families and hungry children. This is truly a case of egregious fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

    They also wrote to Republican leaders:

    Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) issued a statement saying he had reached out to LePage’s office and had been, “reassured they are taking these allegations very seriously, are taking appropriate steps to look into their validity, and considering the appropriate course of action going forward.”

    HHS Chair Rep. Richard Farnsworth weighs in:

      “This so-called report from the Alexander Group has been a debacle from the moment the governor secretly gave this nearly $1 million no-bid contract to his Tea Party crony. The taxpayers should not have to pay a single cent for this miserable piece of work, let alone a half million dollars. The people of Maine deserve a full refund. This is not simply an oversight on the part of the Alexander Group and the administration, it is an ethical failure.”

    Gary Alexander and DHHS Commissioner Mayhew react to questions from HHS Committee member Rep. Peter Stuckey (D-Portland), 1/14/14.

    Gary Alexander and DHHS Commissioner Mayhew react to questions from HHS Committee member Rep. Peter Stuckey (D-Portland), 1/14/14.

    Later that same day, it is learned that the contract itself will be scrutinized by federal authorities:

      Gerry Petruccelli, a University of Maine Law School professor who has specialized in business and contract law, said Wednesday the language in the contract between Alexander and the state was “fuzzy” enough that the state may have little legal recourse.

      Meanwhile officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Boston referred all questions on the use of federal funds to pay Alexander to the Office of the Inspector General.

      John Martins, a spokesman for DHHS confirmed Wednesday, that of the $501,760 that Alexander had already been paid about half of it or $249,185 was federal funds.

      Phil Coyne, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the federal OIG, HHS regional office in Boston said investigators would be reviewing the state’s contract with the Alexander Group to determine if the federal funds used to pay the consultant were used appropriately.

    The governor’s press secretary responded:

    lepage sots angry self

      “Could there be a coincidence that Democrats are pushing out these letters days before their convention?” she wrote. “The governor will not allow politics to interfere with getting to the bottom of these allegations. As the governor has stated previously, he immediately suspended payment one week ago (Wednesday, May 21 upon learning of these claims), proper follow up is being conducted looking into the validity of these accusations, and appropriate action will be taken, including and up to termination of the contract, if warranted.”

      Bennett’s statement did not specifically address whether the state had protections within the contract to recoup its money.

    LePage went on the record as well:

      On Tuesday, the governor released a statement to the Portland Press Herald, saying, “I will take every action we can. I am not happy about this.”

      He added that the state may attempt to reclaim the $500,000 it has already paid The Alexander Group.

      “It’s all a matter of the extent of what the damage is,” he said.

    Donate Button with Credit Cards

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
  • AG Mills on LePage EBT Fraud Claims: Put Issue In Perspective, Go After “Big Fish” Too

    Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

    Justin Alfond, Mark EvesIn early January, Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves sent a letter requesting that Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills and her office look into the allegations of widespread EBT fraud put forth by Governor Paul LePage. In the letter, they requested that the Attorney General review, and if necessary prosecute, the governors allegations of fraud and abuse in Maine’s anti-poverty programs.

    In a press release to media, Democrats stated their position clearly:

      Maine Democrats are committed to ensuring that all public dollars are used effectively, efficiently and for the purposes for which they are intended. This is especially true with respect to anti-poverty programs designed to help struggling families get back on their feet again. Abuse of the system, whether perpetrated by recipients, businesses or health care providers that receive these dollars, cannot be tolerated and must be stopped.

      Democrats believe fraud should be prosecuted not politicized. We must focus on real solutions to the serious problem of poverty and unemployment in our state.

    On Monday, Mills sent a letter back to the Democratic leaders and minced no words in how she views the Governor’s recent tirades against EBT fraudulent users, which his own released data showed to have a scant 0.2% fraud rate– ignoring the fact that the remaining 99.8% rate of usage is completely legitimate- as agreeing with the Democrats’ previous assertion that the Governor’s focus on such a small percentage of possible fraud could be politically motivated.

    Here is AG Janet Mills’ letter sent to Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves:

    Mills discusses not just the 0.2% of purported fraud claimed to have been discovered by LePage’s office, but the fact that only the location of the ATM transactions is known- what the monies withdrawn were spent upon is anyone’s guess:

      “Whether anybody has ever used EBT funds withdrawn from an ATM in any bank, store or other facility to purchase a pint of coffee brandy is beyond my direct knowledge, although I would not be surprised if this has occurred. Such behavior, of course, is socially unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible. However, there are other antisocial behaviors involving the misuse of public funds which cause me equal or greater concern.”

    What has yet to be considered by any public officials yet are such reasonable and legitimate possibilities as employees on assistance might be withdrawing cash at their place of employment to pay for gasoline to get back and forth to work. It is not unreasonable to consider that employees at “strip clubs, bars and smoke shops” are making minimum or lower wages than most workers.

    DA Maeghan Maloney, AG Janet Mills and Sec. of State Matt Dunlap at EmergeMaine's 2013 naming of Mills as Woman of the Year.

    DA Maeghan Maloney, AG Janet Mills and Sec. of State Matt Dunlap at EmergeMaine’s 2013 naming of Mills as Woman of the Year.

    As for the Governor’s “46 states” statistic… has anyone considered that maybe those are some of Maine’s currently enlisted military families, stationed elsewhere? Last year, it was reported that military families nationwide redeemed $100 million in SNAP benefits- yet that part of the discussion has yet to be had locally or looked into as an explanation of why Maine EBT cards have been used in almost every state, yet been part of such a tiny overall number.

    Mills informed the leaders that her office was very much focused on all sorts of fraud, including that by providers stealing millions from the state:

      “While we are taking action against eligibility and recipient fraud which is more visible to the public and more talked about, provider fraud is also a very high priority for us. These providers steal millions of dollars from the public purse and seriously undermine the public trust in our MaineCare program.”

    In her conclusion, Mills advised that focal balance be a part of eliminating fraud:

      “There is a great deal of talk this election year about welfare fraud. I hope that we put this issue in perspective, and make sure we apply the rule of law fairly and uniformly, that we go after the big fish as well as the small, and that we not elevate one over the other.”
    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    Maine Legislature Overrides LePage Veto of LD 1353, “An Act To Further Reduce Student Hunger”

    Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

    Last week, both chambers of the Maine Legislature took up and voted to override Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1353, “An Act To Further Reduce Student Hunger”. The Senate first took up the veto, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond.

    Here is the floor speech he delivered to his colleagues, urging they join him in voting against the Governor:

      When I was 9 years old and living in Dexter, Tom was my classmate. We were friends and he liked to play sports. Back then, and through my 9-year old eyes, I remember he was “that kid” who got called down to the principal’s office. He was “that kid” who stayed in during recess. He was also “that kid” who missed a lot of school. What I realized later, with my adult eyes, is that Tom was “that kid” whose family–although they worked hard–didn’t have enough money to make sure Tom got enough food. He was hungry. I am sure that we all knew or know a Tom? Maybe there are a few of us in this room that was Tom?

      justin alfondAs a past member of the education committee, I now know that hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to learning. A child who doesn’t have enough to eat, won’t do as well in school. They’re more likely to get sick more often—and, less likely to finish high school. Tom was “that kid”.

      That was more than 25 years ago.

    • Today, there are 84,000 students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
    • Today, twenty percent of Maine kids are food insecure–that’s nearly one in five.
    • Today, the state of Maine ranks third–only two other states in America have more children in hunger.

      That’s a list that we shouldn’t be on. In fact, that’s a ranking we should be ashamed of.

      Sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest. This bill is one small step–one common sense step toward making sure a hungry kid in Maine has the opportunity to get one meal a day during the summer-vacation months.

      Feeding hungry students is nothing new. We already have a program in place for making sure hungry students get fed during the school year. It’s a federal program, that Maine schools take part in. It’s called the National School Lunch Program.

      And feeding students during the summer is nothing new. In fact, the first summer food program began in 1968.

      Government–and our society–has long seen the need, and accepted the responsibility, to help provide nutrition to our neediest children.

      Today, if you all join me in supporting this bill (again), we can make a difference to 84,000 Maine kids who currently qualify for free or reduced lunch. Today, all we are asking–and expecting–is for the adults to have a conversation about the hungry children at their school, in their community. Today, we are asking schools who already offer summer programming like a rec program, to consider whether a summer food program is right for them.

      The food costs are paid for. The federal Summer Food Program picks up the food costs.

      The bill even allows schools to partner with churches or nonprofits or other community and civic organizations. In my home town of Portland, there’s a summer food program in the park—at Deering Oaks. The goal is to go to where the kids are and make it as easy as possible.

      But even still, if a school doesn’t want to participate, they can opt out. Ultimately, it’s a local decision.

      Some may ask, “Why is this necessary if schools already can ‘opt-in’ to a summer food program?”. The answer is simple: because there are still 70,000 kids across our state, in each of our districts, who are not getting fed in the summer. They are hungry.

      The question I ask each of you is, “Why wouldn’t we do this now?”

      Again I will ask you: “Why wouldn’t we do this now when food insecurity for Mainers is increasing?”

      This bill is more than just a bill, it’s a pledge, it’s a commitment by all of us that we need to change course; we need to build momentum to help our most precious assets, the children of our state.

      Today, you have a second chance to help feed our state’s hungry children so that we can make sure all of our kids, even the hungry, have the basic building blocks to go toe to toe with their classmates or in fact with anyone, anywhere.

      I hope you will join me.

    Senator Colleen Lachowicz added: “At a time when more families are struggling to make ends meet and more children are hungry, it is irresponsible and unconscionable of us not to do everything we can to reduce student hunger.”

    The Senate voted 25-10 in support of the override; it then next went to the House. Some quick notes taken during the resulting floor debate:

      Reps Ben Chipman, Tori Kornville rose in support; now Jeff McCabe. Peter Johnson (r-Greenville) spoke in opposition, saying that it should be left to local communities.

      Now Corey Wilson, (R-Augusta). He tells the chamber again of how he was one of these children and urges support in overriding the veto.

      Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) speaks to address her colleagues in the House (2013).

      Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) speaks to address her colleagues in the House (2013).

      Bruce Macdonald, one of the committee chairs, spoke and now Karen Kusiak.

      GOP Rep. McClellan of Raymond opposes on funding concerns later on. He also opposes it as a mandate. Unhappy that schools are giving medical care, etc and not simply teaching (paraphrase).

      Jeff Timberlake (R-Turner) asks questions re: whether or not this is allowed in school; Seth Berry answering.

      Anne Graham speaking in support, tells how health and nutrition work together.

      Diane Russell (D-Portland) rises to ask “how did we get to a place where we are debating whether or not to reduce student hunger”?

      Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) discusses her work in 1992 with national campaign to end hunger.

      Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) asks question re: better to educate schools on the program.

      Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) gives personal story of how the reduced lunches helped.

      Elizabeth Dickerson (D-Rockland) next, telling of her communities’ 40% lower income poverty that kids in her school live in, every day. That she has taught algebra and discovered that some kids have not eaten all day- she and other teachers routinely keep snacks in their desks for these students.

      Jeff McCabe )D-Skowhegan) answers the earlier Keschl question; now Brian Jones… Strong statement regarding body’s charge if taking care of common welfare of Maine citizens.

      Matthea Daughtry (D-Brunswick) next, another committee member.

      Scott Hamann (D- South Portland) talking about going to a school pantry in Biddeford yesterday and Hannaford’s helping.

      Terry Hayes speaks of how she just came from an ethical meeting. “We continue to add to what schools need to do”… Will vote to override, but understands the GOP argument.

      Paul McGowan of York also answers Keschl.

      Now Ray Wallace (R-Dexter) asks what folks had for breakfast or lunch when they were kids- grew up in family of 8 kids and single mom, no help. Did not suffer and was able to learn. Let the parent raise the child. They get food stamps; are they spending it on food… Or something else? Let the parent feed them!! If they aren’t gonna feed them, cut the welfare!

      Rep Soctomah next, was raised on state reservation. Speaks of her own background, very emotional issue for her.

      Rep. Helen Rankin addresses House; urges support of override.

    Bangor Daily News reported the following quotes from legislators:

    Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) interviewed by WCSH in 2013.

    Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) interviewed by WCSH in 2013.

    Rep. Victoria Kornfield (D-Bangor): “Vetoing this bill did not save the state funds. Instead, it left federal funding on the table. … Frankly, I am surprised that the chief executive vetoed this bill because the summer program is exactly the compassion he talked about in his State of the State speech.”

    Rep. Peter Johnson (R-Greenville): “The fact that we have to pass a law to have adults have a conversation says something about this bill. I think we should have the confidence in our citizenship to allow them to do that without passing another mandate.”

    Rep. Michael McClellan (R-Raymond): “If we don’t look at issues like this and come up with the root of the problem and why it’s happening, then it’s a Band-Aid and we’ll be here again in a year or two to deal with it again. I don’t think it’s just or fair to keep burdening our schools with these things.”

    Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta): “I grew up quite poor and relied on food from the food pantry. I also did receive free breakfasts and free lunches from the school and I’m thankful for that. I rise in support of overriding the veto. It’s just the right thing to do. We have an opportunity here to feed children and I feel that if we ever have that opportunity, we should go for it. … I want to see the children in my community have the ability to simply be fed.”

    Rep. Karen Kusiak shared her floor speech:

      Thank you Mr. Speaker, Women and Men of the House:

      I rise to speak in support of the motion before us; we must override the unfortunate veto of LD 1353, and Act to Further Reduce Student Hunger.

      Rep. Karen Kusiak of Fairfield

      Rep. Karen Kusiak of Fairfield

      One of the school districts I represent, MSAD 49 – where I served on the school board – has cooperatively participated in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for a number of years. We serve children and youth who attend a community supported summer recreation program and children who attend a summer school program.

      (It may be that other school districts in my legislative district have summer food service programs, I don’t know for sure.) But I do know that my county, Somerset, has over 55% of our students qualifying for the federal lunch program. Our county, like other poor counties in the state, have children who rely on the school lunch programs for their basic nutrition. Children and youth up through the age of 18 who live within the geographic boundary of a school district with such a high participation in the school lunch program can participate in the Summer Food Service Program.

      The SFSP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and run by the Maine Department of Education. The Maine DOE already encourages school districts to participate in the program. Look at their child nutrition programs page – there is plenty of information about getting a SFSP started and suggestions for making the reporting and paperwork relatively easy.

      From the DOE Website: “The Summer Food Service Program provides meal reimbursement to eligible summer programs. Communities throughout Maine have opened the door to the SFSP and helped close the door on summer hunger. Sponsors include schools, community recreation programs, nonprofit organizations and camps. Maine has over 87 sponsors with an estimated 254 sites for children to have a summer meal at no cost. Almost 481,000 meals and snacks were served in 2012.”

      Yet, even with the 87 sponsors and 254 sites, still the Maine Center for Economic Policy calculated in 2011 that Maine was using only about 10% of federal USDA funds that we are eligible to receive for Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP.) That means that children and youth in Maine who are eligible for the program are not able to participate, and are likely going hungry or not eating balanced meals.

      More Maine children and youth can be served through SFSP. Holding more school districts responsible for SFSP is the right thing to do.

      Opting out is permitted – a school board need only publicize that it will be conducting a public hearing on opting in or out of the program and vote on the question in a public meeting. A School Board may opt out, for example, after noting and telling the community that a local recreation program offers the SFSP for children and youth in their community. However, where no such program is provided, this bill will encourage local school districts to participate in the program or provide an opportunity for local residents to urge – through the public meeting – that schools participate in the program.

      It is very simple. Overriding this bill is the right thing to do for hungry, developing (growing) children who need good nutrition, and it provides support for poor and working class families.

    Here is the floor speech of Rep. Scott Hamann:

      Thank you Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, Men and Women of the House.

      Yesterday I visited a food pantry at an elementary school in Biddeford. I saw wonderful families file through, gratefully gathering their groceries. Volunteers greeting them at the door, and offering their help. Hannaford was there. They had a nutrition specialist ready to answer questions and offer recipe suggestions specific to the types of food that was being distributed by the school pantry. Some girl scouts set up a table and were giving out free books.

      This is where community happens. In our schools. Our community activities and activity centers. That’s why it’s the perfect place to implement and optimize an available federal resource – the Summer Food Service Program – to address child hunger…something that no reasonable person would consider anything other than a dire concern.

      Rep. Scott Hamann (D- South Portland) speaks at a press conference is support of raising minimum wages.

      Rep. Scott Hamann (D- South Portland) speaks at a press conference is support of raising minimum wages.

      Hunger…doesn’t happen just 9 months out of the year. The hunger pains don’t go away just because a child finishes second grade and begins their summer vacation. They have three months to wait to start third grade, get back to school, and get back to more predictable nutrition. That’s not right. That student doesn’t come back in September equally as prepared as a student who spent their summer knowing where their next meal was coming from. That’s not fair. And that is what the Summer Food Service Program is designed to address, and why this food is fully funded by the federal government.

      We talk about opportunity, self reliance, education, an educated workforce. The building blocks of all those things is food security in childhood. If we want a world class labor force, we need to make sure that kids’ stomachs are full and their developing brains are getting the nutrients they need.

      In that respect, the Chief Executive’s veto of LD1353 is shortsighted. Why would we ever want to handicap our next generation’s workforce? Why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to ensure that we are delivering Maine’s business community the best employees possible? A generation raised free from food insecurity. This bill is a step in that direction.

      At a time when pantry lines… are almost longer than the list of excuses why we can’t rise to the challenge of addressing child hunger… hopefully this vote is unanimous to reflect how both parties unequivocally support the morally right and responsible effort to address child hunger. Hopefully both sides of the aisle can work together in the future as well to take further steps to address what ought to be one of the most bipartisan…nonpartisan issues in the state house – protecting a child’s next meal.

    Ultimately the House also voted to override the veto by a 2 vote margin, 92-45. Only four GOP members joined Democrats in overriding the veto: Rep. Corey Wilson, Rep. Joyce Maker (R-Calais), Rep. Matthew Pouliot (R-Augusta) and Rep. Ellen Winchenbach (R-Waldoboro).

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    Weekly Democratic Address by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: Democrats Stood Up For Good Policy, Keeping Promises to Towns

    Posted on February 14, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

      DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS

      Jackson says, “Democrats led on standing up for good policy and doing the right thing by keeping our promise to our towns.”

    Sometimes what happens in Augusta, at the State House, seems far removed from what goes on in our communities. But this week, after about a month into the 2014 legislative session, the Maine Legislature moved forward with two major accomplishments—despite Governor LePage’s objections. We kept the state’s promise to fund Maine’s towns and cities; and, we overrode Governor LePage’s veto, in order to feed kids who are hungry.

    troy jackson nmtGood Morning. This is State Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash.

    As the Senate Majority Leader, I am proud that Democrats led on both of these critically important issues. I am, however, equally proud that many Republicans joined us in standing up for good policy and doing the right thing.

    To many of us, ensuring that a kid who is hungry and comes from a poor family gets at least one meal a day during the summer is a no brainer. Especially when the cost of the food is paid for by the federal Department of Agriculture.

    While some were trying to decide who to blame for hungry kids, and do nothing; others, including a third of the Senate Republicans and all of the Democrats stood up to this nonsense—and overrode the veto.

    As my colleague Senator Lachowicz from Waterville said, “At a time when more families are struggling to make ends meet and more children are hungry, it is irresponsible and unconscionable of us not to do everything we can to make sure children in our communities get fed.”

    Feeding hungry kids was not the only area where Governor LePage tried to stand in the way of getting things done for the people in our state.

    For weeks, lawmakers have been working together to craft a plan to restore revenue sharing—which are the dollars promised by the state to Maine’s towns and cities to ensure towns can continue providing essential services and keep property taxes down.

    Governor LePage has waged a crusade against keeping this promise—starting last year when his budget proposal completely eliminated the program. Lawmakers stood up to that and partially restored funding.

    But Governor LePage’s attempts to keep raiding dollars from our towns and cities didn’t stop there. In December, Governor LePage doubled down on his threat to eliminate revenue sharing. He even went so far as to call the very dollars used to keep our police and fire departments operating, “welfare.”

    And then, just a few days ago, Governor LePage issued a brand new threat: If lawmakers restored revenue sharing, he would hold back bond investments. This is not the first time he has threatened to hold Maine’s jobs hostage. Remember, he did so for the last three years.

    What was peculiar this time, was that a mere 48 hours earlier, Governor LePage touted bonds as part of his economic development plan in his State of the State address. Regardless of the threats, a resounding number of lawmakers—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—stood up to these outbursts and did what was right for our towns across the state.

    Even though Governor LePage has said that I can’t count, I can count to $40 million. And based on my math, the Legislature just restored $40 million to our towns. We kept our promise and we did the responsible thing for Maine’s property taxpayers.

    Our work is not done—and thankfully we have another few months of session to work.

    Before us will be issues like, how can we make college more affordable to Maine families? What kind of investments do Maine small businesses need and want? And what more can we do to keep energy costs down and renewable energy sources more abundant?

    But perhaps the most fundamental issue before us will be, once again, standing up to Governor LePage’s political rhetoric and faulty math. We must do everything we can to expand health care for 70,000 Mainers who still do not have coverage. We have a plan—and the costs are picked up by the feds.

    The time is now. The people of Maine know it—and many Republicans know that just like with the issues of child hunger and keeping our funding promise to Maine’s towns, expanding health care is the right thing to do.

    The Legislature knows that actions speak louder than words. That’s why we have been keeping our promise to Maine people and why we will continue to do so.

    Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a warm and safe weekend.

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    Maine Legislature Overwhelmingly Pass LD 1762, Restoring $40M in Municipal Revenue Sharing

    Posted on February 12, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee listen to testimony regarding LR 2721 (LD 1762) at public hearing.

    Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee listen to testimony regarding LR 2721 (LD 1762) at public hearing.

    Yesterday the 126th Maine Legislature took up LD 1762, “An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force”, which originally passed the House last Thursday by a 114-21 vote on its first reading. The debate at that time was at times contentious, with Republicans divided on the merits of the bill and understanding their votes could have ramifications come November.

    LD1762 came up again yesterday first in the House, where a slew of amendments were tacked onto the bill and many GOP members standing to speak in opposition to it. One by one, the amendments were indefinitely postponed. Reactions from House Republicans:

      House Republican Leader Ken Fredette’s floor amendment would task the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management with finding spending reductions to equal the $40 million needed for fiscal year 2015.

      “The tax expenditure task force, which was responsible for closing this $40 million gap and was stacked with liberals, failed to complete its task,” said Rep. Fredette. “OPM, on the other hand, successfully completed its task of finding $35 million in spending cuts. My amendment would give the job to OPM since the majority Democrats and their task force have proven themselves incapable of balancing the budget in a responsible manner.”

      Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) introduced an amendment that would reduce welfare spending as an alternative to raiding the rainy day fund.

      “When I talk about reducing the size of state government, some people like to ask me, ‘what, specifically, would you cut?’ as if I won’t have an answer,” said Rep. Lockman on the House floor. “Well, here’s my answer. Here are 25 million answers. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg that is sinking Maine’s economic ship.”

      Rep. Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) introduced an amendment to give $7 million in property tax relief directly to needy seniors and pay for it with revenue sharing reductions to municipal government.

      “Democrats talk a big game about helping the needy and the elderly, but it’s clear now where their priorities are,” said Rep. Parry.

      Rep. Dean Cray (R-Palmyra) had a very specific spending cut alternative to raiding Maine’s rainy day fund. His amendment proposed eliminating green energy subsidies to replace $14 million in reductions to the rainy day fund.

    For some context on the amendments and those offering them:

    • The cuts Rep. Fredette referred to via OPM were detailed in this earlier post from last fall and include cuts such as $1 million for vaccinations and $500k to Head Start, as well as many cuts to the Department of Corrections.
    • Rep. Lockman’s amendment would have taken another $25 million from DHHS’ ever-changing budget requirements. It is very challenging to view his proposal seriously, as he earlier was one of a group of Republicans who, unhappy with the LePage budget and its cuts to revenue sharing, held a press conference at the State House to present their own budget alternative:

      At the 4:00 mark, Lockman discusses new taxes to be levied against Maine’s wealthiest non-profits, but relabels them creatively as “fair share recycling fees”. One wonders how Maine’s largest hospitals and colleges, which top the list of the state’s wealthiest nonprofits, would react to such “fees”?

    • Rep. Parry’s amendment would still not address the municipal shortages of the communities tasked with providing services such as police, fire and public works to the very senior and needy citizens that his proposal was supposedly aimed to help. A reminder: Recently as many as 100 municipalities were represented at a public hearing regarding this bill and spoke of the harm that revenue sharing was doing to their communities.
    • As for Rep. Cray’s offering… let’s just say that “renewable energy” will never be an honest focus of the LePage administration.

    Ultimately the original bill passed under the hammer (ie, no second roll call vote) and went immediately to the Senate. And there something interesting happened…

    The Senate voted to pass the bill by a 33-2 margin, with the only two voting against, Senators Pat Flood and Dick Woodbury, having already declared that neither was running for re-election. Via Senate Democrat press release, here are statements from some of the members:

      Senate President Justin Alfond: “Towns across our state have financially stretched budgets. They came to us with a problem that needed to be solved. Towns across our state, regardless of political affiliation, wholeheartedly support this measure because they know the state should and must keep its promise. In this business, you have to stand up and be accountable to the property taxpayers of your town. Passing this measure and keeping our promise is the responsible thing to do.”

      Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee and LD 1762 co-sponsor:
      “Last year we all worked across the aisle to make a promise to our towns; we pledged our best effort. We made a promise to towns to ensure good schools, police to ensure safety, and skilled firefighters. Now is not the time to upend all of that work. Restoring these funds will ensure our towns don’t have to raise property taxes or further reduce essential services like public safety or education, or do both.”

      Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: “Once again, Governor LePage is threatening to hold Maine’s economy hostage if he doesn’t get his way. Today, the Senate sent a message that we will not be held hostage. We will stand up for our towns and cities and keep our funding promise.”

    In December, Governor Paul LePage outraged many by labeling revenue sharing as “welfare” , a position he did not take as Waterville’s mayor in 2009. While LePage has indicated that he would either veto the bill or hold hostage $100 million in voter-approved bonds meant to pay for infrastructure projects were LD 1762 to pass, there has been no word yet from the second floor as to what comes next.

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    Boomerang Bills: Medicaid Expansion, Revenue Sharing- Now Right to Work?

    Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

    In 2011, Maine Governor Paul LePage made noises similar to many other tea party colleagues around the country by introducing so-called “right to work” (anti-union) bills LD 309 and LD 788. Both died in committee and never got to a 125th Legislative floor vote.

    Paul LePageLast year the 126th legislature took up a variety of highly politicized and much discussed pieces of legislation that ultimately failed to garner enough support to override the ever active veto pen of Governor Paul LePage, including LDs 1546 (the combined hospital payment, liquor contract and Medicaid expansion effort) and 1066 (the stand-alone Medicaid expansion bill).

    The governor’s 2013 budget included at its very foundation a complete removal of municipal revenue sharing, which ultimately was decided by lawmakers as LD 1509. LePage had long threatened to veto his own budget if Appropriations amended it, so it came as no surprise when he did so, but had the 126th legislature not come together to override the veto last June (Roll calls here for Senate and House) Maine would have faced its first government shutdown in decades.

    LePage then warned legislators that he didn’t intend to change his focus, not one bit:

      Playing politics is easy; governing effectively is hard. As Chief Executive, I take my responsibilities on behalf of the people of Maine seriously.

      Our Administration has worked hard to change the attitude within government and has brought more transparency to government than any recent administration. We work with citizens and businesses to solve problems. We strive to be efficient and responsible with taxpayer dollars. And we only introduce public policy that benefits Mainers and our state.

      I do not form opinions about policy based on party lines. Our Administration identifies the problem, reviews the options, and develops a plan. I stand by my principles and I don’t know any other way than to fight for what I believe in.

      Maine has challenging issues that must be addressed. While we have the lowest unemployment rate in years, we need to become more competitive.

      Electricity prices must be lowered and government spending must be curbed. I want Maine businesses to have the opportunity to thrive and create new jobs, and I want you to keep your hard-earned money not give it to government.

      Furthermore, the taxes the Legislature just raised on you were completely unnecessary.

    Fast forward to now the second half of the 126th session- and once again, all three have come flying back into Augusta.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

    It started with the reintroduction of a pair of Medicaid expansion bills offered by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (LD 1578) and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (LD 1640).

    Then on January 17, there was a public hearing before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on LR 2721,“An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force”, which would work to restore revenue sharing between the state and local municipalities. More than 80 Maine municipalities and schools originally passed resolutions opposing Paul LePage’s revenue sharing elimination earlier in the session; while the passed budget offset some of the damage and monies lost, millions of dollars are predicted to be further cut from their budgets. The legislative resolution was offered by AFA Co-Chairs Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) and Representative Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston).

    Among those speaking in support of the Democratic proposal were mayors, town managers, city employees, school board members and more. Dozens of people came from around the state to speak in the extremely long session; here are links to videos taken of some of the testimonies:

    Presque Isle
    Oakland (Note: Maine Municipal Association President)
    Gorham
    Brewer, second Brewer clip
    Biddeford
    Dover-Foxcroft

    Other towns that submitted testimony include Auburn, Lewiston, Bangor, Milo, Lincoln, Marshfield, Charlotte, Alfred, Fryeburg, Bridgton, South Berwick, Woolwich, St Agathe, Palmyra, Portland and South Bristol. Members from the Maine State Employees Union, Maine Municipal Association and Aroostook Municipal Association spoke as well.

    A work session on the measure scheduled for yesterday abruptly ended when all of the Republican Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee members left the State House last night before the committee chairs had declared the session concluded. Democrats decided to vote the measure forward to the Legislature, 7-0:

      Monday evening was one of those rare occasions when the committee “broke up,” to paraphrase State House parlance. Details are a bit fuzzy, but the dispute centers on L.R. 2721 a proposal that would forestall a $40 million cut in municipal revenue sharing by, at least as originally proposed, reducing or eliminating an identical amount in tax breaks But on Monday, Democrats on the committee voted out a bill that would prevent the revenue sharing cut by tapping the state’s rainy day fund and income tax relief fund.

      Both funding mechanisms are likely non-starters for Republicans, which may be why none were there for the vote. Actually, it’s not clear why the Republicans weren’t there.

      According to Democratic press statements and tweets, Republicans “refused” vote on the bill, or they “took a walk.” Democrats also sent out statements that said they “kept their promise” to Maine’s municipalities, while noting that Republicans were absent.

      Meanwhile, according to Republican press statements, the Democrats on the panel told their Republican colleagues that they weren’t voting until Tuesday, but waited until they left and went ahead and did it anyway. The headline in the Maine House GOP release began with “disgrace;” the GOP Senate release said it was a “stunning maneuver.” Republicans also sent out photos and a video of the Democrats voting on the proposal.

    NOTE: This is a story still in progress, as both parties continue to level accusations at each other and no doubt, there will be mention of this event in tonight’s State of the State address by Governor LePage. The latest statement by Democratic leaders:

    Justin Alfond, Mark Eves

      “Democratic committee members proudly took their vote yesterday; a vote that keeps the state’s 40 year promise and will help prevent massive property tax spikes and cuts to essential services,” said Alfond. “In this business, you have to stand up and be counted. And the Republicans didn’t do that. Worse, they lied. We expect to have policy disagreements but not this: they have disparaged the integrity of many hard working lawmakers and we cannot sit quietly as they attempt to do so. Mainers are counting on us to work together and do better.”

    There is also now word that right-to-work legislation is likely to be among the topics LePage will touch upon in tonight’s address. This has been a rumor for a few weeks now, but yesterday there was some discussion at a pair of leadership press conferences of a potential idea being bandied around of swapping right-to-work legislation for Medicaid expansion.
    As a reminder: Governor LePage tried to cut a deal with DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius regarding expansion earlier and was turned down flat.

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    Mainers Urge Lawmakers to Expand Medicare (Pix, Video)

    Posted on January 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Yesterday the 126th Maine Legislature reconvened to begin the second half of the legislative session. At the same time, hundreds of people from around the state came to Augusta to hold a rally organized by Maine People’s Alliance coalition members, hear the life stories of almost two dozen fellow citizens, and urge lawmakers to support expansion of Medicare for 70,000 Mainers as part of the Health Care First initiative.

    Almost two dozen came to the mic to speak at the rally; here is a full clip from the event held in the State House’s Hall of Flags.

      “As a nurse, many of the patients I see every day wait until they are so sick that we can’t help them the way that we should and their health deteriorates even more,” said Jessie Mellott, a Registered Nurse from Bangor, introducing the speakers. “They lose limbs. They may never get back to their previous health due to lack of access to care. A lot of the time, these are easy things to fix if they were addressed in time. I urge the legislature to help me care for my patients and take the important step of expanding Medicaid services for 70,000 Maine people.”

      gina“I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy and lost my MaineCare coverage on December 31st,” said Thomas Ptacek of Portland. “My family has a history of multiple sclerosis and I worry that I, too, may have it someday. But my VA benefits are limited and will not cover the cost of preventative care or any treatment for the disease. I need MaineCare for that.”

      “When I found out I had seriously aggressive cancer I was able to access MaineCare and that was life-saving for me,” said Laura Tasheiko of Northport. “I was dropped and left without coverage as I continue my recovery from the ongoing and debilitating effects of cancer, surgery, and chemotherapy treatment. MaineCare is essential for the monitoring and care needed to avoid a medical crisis from medication complications, or even death, in the event of the cancer coming back.”

      “Without MaineCare, my injuries will just keep getting worse and worse. I’ll just keep going until I can’t go anymore and then they’ll throw you to the wolves, I guess,” said Richard Holt, a lobsterman and carpenter living in South Portland, “I need it to make sure I can stay healthy enough to keep working for at least another 4 years before I qualify for Medicare.”

    More quotes from Bangor Daily News:

    atwood

      One of those speakers was Gail MacLean, who boards horses at her stable in Gray. MacLean said she has been on Medicaid for three years, but lost her coverage on Dec. 31 as a result of the state not expanding the program, known as MaineCare in the state.

      “Now I’m tip-toeing around the farm, hoping I don’t hurt myself,” she said. “My fear is that if something happens, I’ll lose what I’ve worked so hard for.”

      Another man, Tom Bennie, a farmer and handyman from Whitefield, said MaineCare paid for his full hip replacement in 2010, and helped his wife recover from a heart attack shortly thereafter.

      “If it weren’t for MaineCare, I wouldn’t be able to stand here today,” he said. “My health is all I have. That’s the most important thing. MaineCare gave me a sense of security.”

      Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, is co-sponsor of Eves’ Medicaid expansion bill, which legislative Republicans and LePage have vowed to defeat again this year. He called on the governor to follow the example of other GOP executives, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who in their states accepted Medicaid expansion as allowed by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

      He called the showing by MPA “impressive.”

      “I think it’s a real statement to the moderate Republicans to get on board,” he said. “If Gov. LePage vetoes this bill again, I expect them to support us in overriding.”

    Later after the end of the beginning day of session, Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves spoke to those assembled:

      “Today in the halls of the State House, we heard why expanding health care to tens of thousands of Mainers is a top priority. The stakes are high—people’s lives and well-being are on the line,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Expanding healthcare is the right thing to do morally and it’s the right economic decision. Making sure folks have access to healthcare without the fear of going bankrupt is something we all value and it’s something we will continue fighting for.”

      “We are so grateful to the people who came today to talk to lawmakers about the importance of this life-saving health care,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, who is sponsoring a new measure to accept federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act. “What we heard today is what we hear from our neighbors at home: people want and need life-saving health care. They don’t understand why politics and ideology are holding up common sense care.”

    A public hearing will be held by the HHS Committee (Cross Building Rm 209) on January 15 regarding Speaker Eves’ and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson’s Medicaid expansion proposals. More pictures from yesterday can be found here.

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    As Goodall Takes SBA Regional Job, Maine Dems’ Turn at “Musical Chairs”

    Posted on July 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

    Last week at the end of the first half of the 126th Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Sagadahoc), who was named last month as New England Regional SBA Administrator for the Obama administration, formally resigned his post in an address to his colleagues (apologies for the less than stellar camera work!).

    It was announced that the Senate Democrats chose as his replacement Second Congressional District candidate and Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson (D- Aroostook) and to fill Jackson’s slot, Senator Anne Haskell (D- Cumberland). Via press release:

      JACKSON-35Head2
      Maine Senate Democrats elected new leadership following the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall. Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash was elected Senate Majority Leader and Senator Anne Haskell of Portland was elected Assistant Senate Majority Leader. Both Senators were unchallenged and unanimously elected by the entire Senate Democratic caucus.

        “Democrats in the State Senate are well served by the experience, commitment, and tireless advocacy of Senators Jackson and Haskell,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “We have a team of leaders who will continue fighting for the very things important to Mainers like improving our economy, getting people back to work, a strong public education system, and affordable health care.”

      Senate Majority Leader: Senator Jackson served as Assistant Senate Majority Leader for the First Regular Session of the 126th Legislature. He served as the Senate Democratic lead on the 2013 Redistricting Commission. This is his third term in the Senate and he previously served three terms in the House.

        “This is a great honor. I will do my best to lead by example and serve the Senate and my caucus,” said Senate Majority Leader Jackson. “We’re a hard working group and I know that we will continue to focus on the job the people of Maine sent us here to do.”

      A logger by trade, Jackson is the former Chair of the Labor Committee, and is known in Augusta as an advocate for working families and small businesses. He lives in Allagash with his partner Lana Pelletier, and their sons, Chace and Camden.

      anne haskellAssistant Senate Majority Leader: Senator Haskell chaired the Taxation Committee and served on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee for the First Regular Session of the 126th Legislature. This is her first term in the Senate. She previously served six terms in the House where she chaired and served on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

        “I am humbled and honored to have the trust of this hard working caucus,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Haskell. “We made great strides this session—with so much work coming out of committees unanimously and with bipartisan support. However, we also understand how much we have left to do. We’re still living in challenging economic times. It is our responsibility to make our state stronger and prosper. I look forward to working on that in the months to come.”

      Haskell lives in Portland with her husband, Lou, where she enjoys visiting their summer camp, spending time with their grandchildren, and participating in an active lifestyle.

    That still left Senator Goodall’s SD seat open. Last week, Governor LePage set a special election date for August 27th and Monday the Sagadahoc County Democrats selected Eloise Vitelli as their nominee against Green candidate Daniel Stromgren of Topsham and probably former GOP State Senator Paula Benoit.

    Eloise Vitelli chosen as Democratic candidate for Dist. 19 special election on Aug. 27. Seen here with David Sinclair (left) and Will Neilson (right). Photo credit to Times Record.

    Eloise Vitelli chosen as Democratic candidate for Dist. 19 special election on Aug. 27. Seen here with David Sinclair (left) and Will Neilson (right). Photo credit to Times Record.

    Vitelli defeated Will Neilson, an Arrowsic resident and mostly non-practicing attorney who owns Solo Bistro in Bath and Bath City Councilor David Sinclair, also an attorney.

    She won on the first ballot, garnering what Bronwen Tudor, chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee called “a significant majority” of the 89 votes cast.

    Vitelli was nominated by House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who said she could hit the ground running in the Senate due to her experience supporting entrepreneurs and helping shape state policy. Berry considered running for the seat before endorsing Vitelli in early July.

    More via BDN:

      Vitelli, who was chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee for four years, said Wednesday that Goodall asked her to run for his seat, which includes Sagadahoc County and the town of Dresden.

      “He turned to me when he knew he got the [SBA] position,” she said. Vitelli said she has helped Goodall with all of his Senate campaigns and has “worked closely with him” since then. She also wrote him a letter of recommendation for the SBA position, she said.

      Vitelli said she hopes to bring her experience in economic development — which she called “my clear passion” — to the Senate 19 seat.

      “Above that, I hope to bring a sense of how to make good decisions at the government level,” she said. “I’m a strong believer in the art of compromise. I guess I am old enough to be able to take the long view, and recognize that things don’t happen overnight, that we have to work together to find solutions. And I hope to bring an even temper.”

      Vitelli said the “incredibly important” race — likely against Benoit of Phippsburg — will be “very interesting. I don’t know how often it’s happened that two women have run against each other.”

    Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    Governor LePage’s Mulligan

    Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    paul jebOriginally posted Jun 27 and now bumped back to top, as news has come out tonight that Maine’s self-proclaimed “blue collar” Governor Paul LePage, who last week denounced the state’s “country club Legislature” and said that he would be discussing options with his family regarding whether or not to run for re-election, announced before a hundred supporters at the posh Jeb Bush hosted, up to $3k per couple Nonantum Resort, Kennebunkport fundraiser that he is indeed running for re-election in 2014.

    (Video link here, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow a few weeks’ ago had something to say regarding Jeb Bush’s decision to hold this fundraiser. She also took the matter up again on this evening’s show.)

    It should be noted that the task of informing the world of this decision came not by press release nor traditional local Maine media, but rather fell to State Senator Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) to deliver the news second-hand to the world, as Maine’s most transparent Governor instructed his senior political advisor Brent Littlefield to issue the following reminding email to Maine media late this afternoon:

      “Just a quick email reminder that tonight’s LePage event in Kennebunkport is closed press.

      There are no press avails before or after the event.

      Brent Littlefield, Senior Political Adviser to Governor LePage”

    augusta cc

      mul·li·gan
      /ˈməligən/
      Noun

      1. A stew made from odds and ends of food.

      2. (in informal golf) An extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.

    —–

    UPDATED with earlier portion of the press conference that I missed; many thanks to PPH’s Steve Mistler.

    UPDATE x2: Friday’s Portland Press Herald is chock-full of scathing missives today in Letters to the Editor: Governor disrespects people he serves.

    —–

    Yesterday after the House (114-34) and Senate (26-9) delivered crushing blows to Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1509, the FY 14-15 fiscal budget bill and in doing so avoided the first statewide government shutdown in over twenty years, the governor held a press conference in which he was a far, far more subdued man than just last week:

    Via Steve Mistler, this earlier portion of the press conference:

      “I’m very disappointed on this budget. Until we start understanding what makes an economy drive and why the southeast and the southwest and the Atlantic states have such good economies, until we emulate some of their behaviors we are not going to be anywheres but 50th place in the country for doing business.”

      “It’s a real sad day for the state of Maine. We took, I thought, with the 125th Legislature, that we took two steps forward for the state. Today, I think we took three steps back. I really feel bad for today.”

    While admittedly not a complete version of the Governor’s press conference (full audio here), the above was almost 15 minutes’ worth of it and many of Maine’s various media were in attendance, including reporters from formerly access denied Portland Press Herald:

      In an impromptu news conference right after Wednesday’s final override vote in the Senate, LePage reacted calmly, but strongly. He criticized Republicans and Democrats alike for a plan that “solidified our place as the 50th worst place to do business for the foreseeable future.”

      He said the Legislature is a “country club” where lawmakers are more interested in getting along with each other than with him.

    Paul LePageAs Lewiston Sun Journal reported, LePage said he was considering his options:

      LePage said he would be consulting more with his family before deciding whether he would seek a second term as governor.

      I am going to be meeting with my family at some point and we are going to be talking it over,”
      LePage said. “Quite frankly, I don’t know how you recover from this. I really don’t know how you recover from a tax increase. This is a giant obstacle. It’s like having a giant hole in the bottom of your ship and you are trying to get across the pond.”

    During the press conference, the Governor repeatedly called his originally submitted budget “a good budget” (so good that the silence from his caucus’ after the State of the State address was deafening) and repeatedly backtracked on his 2009 stance regarding revenue sharing.

    To review the clip of 2009 Waterville Mayor Paul LePage denouncing revenue sharing cuts to his then-city:

    LePage was critical of the Democrats in leadership who would not talk to him about the budget, again called out the Appropriations Committee for not allowing him to speak on mic, in particular the Republicans on the committee and then called out House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) as “having not been around” to talk with or had been “unwilling to talk to me”, that the Republican Party is not a strong one currently in Maine, and was unaware that the energy omnibus bill that he had vetoed had been overturned in the House and heading for the Senate.

    It needs to be noted that while many communities denounced the Governor’s budget, not a single one even attempted to pass a resolution supporting LePage, a point raised by Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Cumberland) during this week’s Democratic leadership media availability event.

    But apparently the coverage was not sufficient for the Governor, as he decided to declare yesterday’s disaster a “mulligan” and try again to explain himself to the Maine people, today going before the camera once more, with his office releasing the following footage this afternoon.

    Roll the clip:

    From the accompanying press release:

      Governor Paul R. LePage speaks out about why he could not support the Legislature’s budget, which included tax increases, in a new video released by the Office of the Governor.

      In the five-minute video, the Governor shares his thoughts about how higher taxes will affect Mainers and condemns decreased funding to programs like Jobs for Maine Graduates.

      In the video, he notes that tax increases will have a devastating effect on the elderly and Mainers who live within their own budgets. Sales, meals and lodging taxes will be increased to fund the state budget.

        “Retired mill workers living on fixed incomes; elderly widows collecting Social Security; and our veterans, who receive nothing more than their military pension—each of them care about this tax increase,” Governor LePage said.

        “We are already one of the highest taxed states in the nation. We have some of the lowest per capita income in the country. Now is not the time to ask Mainers to give more to fund government… For some legislators, it was more important to count votes and reject my proposals than do what is right for our citizens.”

        “Maine people deserve a considered, reasoned debate, and they will hold legislators responsible for their decisions… It is time to look past the next election and look forward to the next generation.”

      This sort of passive-aggressive communication by Maine’s Chief Executive brings back memories of the inexplicable and strange video released in last January, as former CBS reporter now LePage staffer Adrienne Bennett displayed a remarkable lack of journalistic integrity by “interviewing” the governor:

      Harder thrown pitches than these can be seen at a playground Whiffle ball game… Now, I love a good train wreck sort of news story as much as the next person, but this is just getting sad.

      In his opening statement, The Governor claims “not to be a politician and be a blue collar governor”. Gotta call a 1 stroke penalty for this one!

        Ann LePage:“He was what my dad always called a ‘white collar. My dad said, ‘Ann, for god’s sake, he’s a white collar. He doesn’t know how to work.’”

      LePage garners another stroke regarding the claims that the sales tax on meals and lodging will affect Maine businesses. Watch this from Rep. Jethro Pease (R-Morrill) from yesterday:

      Rep. Kim Monaghan-Derrig (D-Cape Elizabeth) agreed:

      And it goes downhill from there, enough so that Bangor Daily News shared Governor LePage’s “Mulligan” as part of a larger piece, asking “Does Governor LePage Still Matter?”

      Ouch.

      Then there is this: “Gov. LePage’s recent actions cry out for an intervention”.

      And this in the PPH. Maine Voices: Assistant GOP leader: Governor’s behavior sets unfortunate tone in Augusta
      .

      That one by Senate Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) even made it into the Washington Post: Top Maine Republican legislator: ‘I am embarrassed’ by LePage.

      Heh. Wonder how Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) feels about that (“Top Republican”) interesting mistype?

      An argument could possibly be made that the Governor sees himself as having a “Tin Cup” moment, but the reality here is indeed something entirely different.

      Time to sign your card and call it a day, Governor…

      Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

    « Previous Entries Next Entries »

    Liked it here?
    Why not try sites on the blogroll...

    %d bloggers like this: