AFA Update- Monday, March 23, 2015: Final votes on the supplemental budget

In a sparsely attended work session the Appropriations committee completed its work on the FY15 supplemental budget bills this evening.

Audio of today’s hearing is available here.

The committee approved two bills, combining the several bills submitted by the Governor.

LD 232, formerly contained all the items related to the AG’s office, the Judiciary and agencies like the Maine Human Rights Commission.  This bill now only contains the authorization for the Attorney General to spend funds in her budget as state match to draw down federal match required to pursue provider based fraud in the MaineCare program.

The Governor has had the opportunity to approve a financial order allowing this authorization since November of 2014.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has recovered over $60.7M in recent years, is required by the federal government as part of the program and is also responsible for some adult protective cases including this horrific case from last year. The AG has told the committee that not providing the state match will jeopardize the work of the unit and federal match.

Republicans on the committee opted to protect what they saw as the prerogative of the Governor.

Sen. Valentino expressed outrage that her Republican colleagues would choose to jeopardize important efforts to pursue Medicaid fraud. She and Rep. Rotundo referred to compelling information about the activities of the unit.

The amended LD 232 was approved on party lines 7-5 Majority OTP-AM with a Minority report of ONTP.

LD 236, formerly the DHHS supplemental contains all of the items and subjects contained in the following LDs: 148, 232, 233, 234, 236, 576.

A series of amendments were proposed and adopted unanimously.

  • Approval of $22K for the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission
  • Approval of motion for the Fund for a Healthy Maine protected $4.6M in funds for prevention by safeguarding arbitration funds and allowing the sweeping of unexpended balances ($2.4M) from previous years
  • Acceptance of transparency language regarding the operation of RPC
  • Approved the reorganization of 2 Mental Health Worker II positions to Acuity Specialists
  • Rejected cuts to Drugs for the Elderly
  • Approved funds for Sidewalk repair at RPC
  • $1.7M for Indigent Legal Services
  • ($75K) from the Judicial Department
  • Approve the savings of $1.75M of debt service
  • Moving out General Assistance funding- no longer needed under new projections from the Department as confirmed in this message
  • Approved the use of $4.3M saved from the FY14 Cascade for future DHHS funding needs
  • Approved transfer of $500K from the Public Utilities Commission to the General Fund as proposed by the Chair of the Commission
  • Approved $2.5M for the continued operation of county jails
  • Approved the Department of Health and Human Services rejection of an initiative to save $20M by changing the timing of certain payments
  • Transfer $1.5M to the Maine Community College System for collective bargaining/retirement costs
  • A pair of position reclasses for the Secretary of State
  • Rejection of language allowing DHHS to transfer funds from the State Funded Foster Care/Adoption account to other purposes in the Office of Child and Family Services.

The bill was also exempted from the Appropriations Table.

Schedule

The rest of the week is devoted to work sessions and report backs on the Biennial budget.

Tuesday 1:00 PM: Joint Committee on Energy Utilities and Technology (may be written only) – Joint Committee on Labor, Commerce and Economic Development (may be written only) – In-Person Report from the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife – Other specific areas of discussion or voting not yet determined

Wednesday 1:00 PM: Joint Committee on State and Local Government (may be written only) – Joint Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs (may be written only) – In-Person Report from the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs – Other specific areas of discussion or voting not yet determined

Thursday: 1:00 PM: Joint Committee on Insurance and Financial Services (may be written only) Joint Committee on Transportation (may be written only) – Specific areas of discussion or voting not yet determined 3:00 pm Work Session on LD 1019 (The Biennial Budget) – In-Person Report from the Joint Committee on Agriculture Conservation and Forestry (TENTATIVE) – Other specific areas of discussion or voting not yet determined

Please join us or listen in here.

The full schedule is available here.

AFA Update- Tuesday, March 17-Wednesday, March 18, 2015- Public hearings and Supplemental budget votes

This week the Appropriations committee held work sessions and public hearings on with the Judiciary, Transportation and Insurance and Financial Services committees. As well as work session on two supplemental budget bills one regarding DHHS and the other the Judicial branch and the Office of the Attorney General. Below you find testimony and audio from all hearings and the work sessions as well as links to annotated copies of the supplemental budget bills. These contain detail of the votes taken in committee.

  Time Committee Highlights Audio Testimony
Tuesday, March 17 1:00 PM Judiciary AG’s Office, Judiciary, Indigent Legal Services, closure of Madawaska Court Audio Testimony
3:00 PM Transportation State Police
Wednesday, March 18 1:00 PM Insurance and Financial Services Audio Testimony
3:00 PM Appropriations (only) Cascade, appropriations limitations (LD 1 PL 2005), employee attrition
Work Session

Supplemental Budget

LD 232 (Judicial and Attorney General) and LD 236 (DHHS)

LD 232- Judiciary and AG

AFA took unanimous votes in favor of nearly every item in LD 232. Including:

  • Nearly $19K for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  • $330K for increased guardian ad litem costs and $250K for increased psychological exams
  • $442K for increased or unbudgeted operating expenses at the combined Judicial Centers
  • $1.7M for increased Indigent Legal Defense

Still tabled are items pertaining to:

  • Positions and financial orders with the Office of the Attorney General
    • Funding for the federal match to run the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit
    • 2 Child Protective prosecutors
    • 2 Child Support prosecutors
    • A Homicide prosecutor
  • $22K for the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission

No final action was taken on LD 232.

LD 236- DHHS

AFA took unanimous votes in favor of nearly every item in LD 236. Including:

  • $1.1M for Consent Decree services
  • 29 positions for the Riverview Psychiatric Center (RPC)
  • Funding for safety, training and accreditation at RPC
  • Moved out a proposal to spend $1.8M for health homes based on the Department’s representation that the funding is no longer needed as they have sufficient resources to make the payments
  • $1.5M to continue enhanced primary care physician payments
  • $20M to offset the Department’s failed attempt to implement a change in cash management
  • $4.0M to correct a federal audit finding

Still tabled are items pertaining to:

  • The Fund for a Healthy Maine
  • Transparency language regarding the operation of RPC
  • The reorganization of 2 Mental Health Worker II positions to Acuity Specialists
  • Drugs for the Elderly
  • Sidewalk repair at RPC

No final action was taken on LD 236.

Schedule

The AFA committee will hold a public hearing tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 PM on LD 576, An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government Related to Position Changes for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2015, June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017

This is another supplemental budget bill put forward by the Governor. This one contains $1.2M in position reclassifications.

The full schedule is here.

As always you can listen here or join us in Room 228.

AFA Update: Monday, March 16, 2015- VLA and Criminal Justice

The Appropriations committee was joined by the Veterans and Legal Affairs and the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committees to continue hearings on the Governor’s proposed biennial budget. The morning hearings covered the Departments of Veteran’s and Legal Affairs, Bureau of Liquor and Lottery, the Ethics Commission, Gambling and Control Board and the Department of Elections at the Office of the Secretary of State.

Audio of today’s hearing is here.

After lunch Criminal Justice and Public Safety covered all aspects of the Department of Corrections most of the Department of Public Safety, and the Fire Protection Services Commission.

Today’s testimony is here.

A list of all of position eliminations in the budget is here.

Planned work sessions on the supplemental budget were postponed.

Schedule

Public hearings continue as policy committees hold concurrent work sessions on their sections of the budget.

  Time Committee Highlights
Tuesday, March 17 1:00 PM Judiciary AG’s Office, Judiciary, Indigent Legal Services, closure of Madawaska Court
3:00 PM Transportation State Police
Wednesday, March 18 1:00 PM Insurance and Financial Services
3:00 PM Appropriations (only) Cascade, appropriations limitations (LD 1 PL 2005), employee attrition

 

The full schedule can be found here.

 

AFA Update: Tuesday, March 10- Friday, March 13, 2015

This week the Appropriations committee was joined by several committees for public hearings on various aspects of the Governor’s proposed Biennial budget.

  Committee(s)/Departments Testimony Audio
Tuesday, March 10 IF&W, Marine Resources Testimony
Wednesday, March 11 State & Local Government Testimony

and Authorized but Unissued Bonds

Audio
Thursday, March 12 Environment & Natural Resources and Energy, Utilities & Technology Testimony Audio
Friday, March 13 Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Agency Testimony

Worker’s Comp Board Org Chart

Public Testimony

The morning’s audio was lost due to power failure

Afternoon Audio (Includes public testimony and Work sessions)

Most areas covered this week did not generate significant testimony or controversy. Notable on Wednesday were discussions around funding for debt service and on Thursday the plan within the Department of Environmental Protection to eliminate 23 positions. Today some objected to the continued diversion of low-income housing funds from the HOME fund.

Work Sessions on Supplemental Budget

After taking public testimony on LCRED items the committee took initial votes on LD 232 LD 234, and LD 236 related respectively to the Judicial branch, much of state government (including the jails) and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Marked up copies of these bills can be found here:

LD 232

LD 234

LD 236

Democratic members of the committee pushed for public discussion and consideration of each line.

On LD 232, Sen. Valentino presented a pair of amendments for the Office of the Attorney General.

1) Authorization to spend up to $28,628 to meet the federal match requirements for the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. -Sen. Hamper will not support the amendment citing his belief that “it circumvents the Office of the Governor” and flagged its approval. Rep. Rotundo offered to provide a copy of the actual language. He was unmoved.

2) Authority for the AG to set and approve the compensation for their employees just as the Secretary of State and State Treasurer are permitted to do. – Sen Hamper voiced the same objections.

The Judiciary maintains that they could not possibly have predicted that it would require additional funds to operate the new Capitol Judicial Center. Previously, Kennebec County has paid the operating costs for the court house.

With respect to Indigent Legal Services, Republicans have proposed funding $1.4M of $1.7M requested by the Commission for the remainder of the fiscal year. 10-14 days of delayed payments would result from a $300,000 reduction.

Regarding LD 234, the committee reconsidered their prior approval of the bill. Republican members of the committee have proposed eliminating additional funding for the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission (MITSC). Rep. Winsor feels there is no urgency to the request.

For LD 236 Republicans objected to allowing 2 Mental Health Worker II positions to remain as such until the end of the fiscal year as proposed by front line workers at RPC.

Citing the ragged pace of supplemental requests from the administration, a public hearing is scheduled for next week as well as a further $1M+ request to come, members expressed frustration at the pace of work and information.

Rep. Winsor asked that Alex Porteous of the Department address the administration’s recent assertion. That the $1.5M previously requested for the General Assistance program. Mr. Porteous and Mr. Adolphson stated that the department has the resources to meet its obligations including any funds that may be due to Portland should the city prevail in its court challenge.

Inquiries about a similar retraction for funds previously needed for the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly program yielded identical answers.

The department cited further claims data correcting their forecasts as a reason for the more accurate projections.

Democrats set aside efforts by the administration to sweep $7M in preventive care dollars from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. These funds were set aside last session for FHM purposes.

Democrats propose instead to use funds set aside from the year-end cascade for the purpose of addressing DHHS shortfalls, particularly the possible failure of the $20M cash management initiative.

The administration now asserts that they also do not need $4M to pay part of a $9.2M federal audit finding. They feel they have the flexibility to delay that payment until the beginning of FY16. They plan to “self fund” the other $5.2M.

The plan is to resume work sessions on these bills Monday afternoon.

Sen. Valentino proposed an amendment to direct Personal Services savings from the proposed Riverview positions to the General Fund Unappropriated Surplus as well as instituting a number of accountability and reporting measures including;

  1. A summary of the number of hours of overtime worked by Mental Health Worker positions, Acuity Specialist positions and Nurse positions;
  2. A summary of the number of hours of mandated overtime worked by Mental Health Worker positions, Acuity Specialist positions and Nurse positions;
  3. A summary of the number of reported injuries indicating the job classification, whether or not the event resulted in lost time and the predicted amount of time before the employee returns to a normal workweek;
  4. A summary of the reported injuries between patients;
  5. The training schedule for Mental Health Worker positions, Acuity Specialist positions and Nurse positions including the number of attendees and an explanation of how staff get released to attend training;
  6. A schedule for hiring the positions authorized by this Act; and
  7. Copies of all communications with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services related to recertification efforts.

DHHS Responses

Beginning this week the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has responded to questions asked during public hearings and work sessions.

Relating to Adult Mental Health

Relating to Substance Abuse, Prescription drug assistance and hospitals

Relating to Public and General Assistance

Schedule

Next week public hearings continue as policy committees hold concurrent work sessions on their sections of the budget.

  Time Committee Highlights
Monday, March 16 10:00 AM Veterans and Legal Affairs BABLO, Ethics, Gambling
  1:00 PM Criminal Justice Corrections, Computer Crimes, Capitol Police, MDEA
  3:00 PM AFA Work sessions on LD 232, 234 and 236 (Supplemental budget bills)
Tuesday, March 17 1:00 PM Judiciary AG’s Office, Judiciary, Indigent Legal Services, closure of Madawaska Court
3:00 PM Transportation State Police
Wednesday, March 18 1:00 PM Insurance and Financial Services
3:00 PM Appropriations (only) Cascade, appropriations limitations (LD 1 PL 2005), employee attrition

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

AFA Update: Monday, March 9, 2015- Local Education and Higher Education

Attention turned to the education portions of the Governor’s proposed budget as the Education and Cultural Affairs committee joined Appropriations for joint public hearings.

Audio of today’s hearing is here.

Testimony began in the morning with presentations from Acting Commissioner Tom Desjardins of the Department of Education and the heads of the various cultural agencies.

Agencies testimony 1

Agencies testimony 2

Agencies testimony 3

Members of the public and faculty supported the nearly $20M of increased funding for various purposes including operating, the Maine Economic Investment Fund (MEIF) and debt service for the University System (UMS).

Many people also testified to urge the committees to support additional support for the Maine Community College System (MCCS).

Teachers and school officials presented forceful testimony that the Governor’s budget undermines public education by creating  a $48 million tax shift onto property taxpayers and communities to fund K-12 education y increasing the cost of education by $68M but providing only $20M in state funding.

Remember, you can find out the projected impact of the Governor’s plan on your schools here: http://www.maine.gov/doe/eps/

You can compare the gain or loss using the same tool.

Advocates also made the case for rejecting the Governor’s plan to take $4M of casino funding intended for preschools.

Public testimony 1

Public testimony 2

Public testimony 3

MEA Sheet

Making Maine Work: Critical Investments for the Maine Economy

Schedule

Tomorrow afternoon the IF&W and Marine Resources committees will hold public hearings on their parts of the budget with AFA.

Wednesday State and Local Government
Thursday Environment and Natural Resources and Energy, Utilities and Technology
Friday Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

Maine LegislatureSpeaker’s Office
www.speakereves.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:March 9, 2015

Contact: Jodi Quintero – 841.6279; Ericka Dodge – 232-5892

Maine children, families lose in LePage budgetLePage budget puts tax breaks for the wealthy, corporations ahead of Maine children, property taxpayers

(Augusta, Me.) – Maine children and families will lose out in Governor Paul LePage’s budget, which gives tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations while shifting education costs to property taxpayers, cities and towns.

Community leaders and education officials warned lawmakers that Governor LePage’s budget would result in a $48 million tax shift onto property taxpayers and communities to fund K-12 education during a joint hearing of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs and Education and Cultural Affairs committees late Monday afternoon.

“As proposed, the governor’s budget unfortunately would further shift the tax burden in the wrong direction to local towns and property taxpayers,” said Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor, who serves on the Education committee. “Education is key to the economic success of our state. Maine children, classrooms, and working families simply can’t afford to keep picking up an increasing share of the tab.”

Since 2010, the state has shifted education costs to municipalities by 27 percent (see chart below).Governor LePage’s budget would exacerbate the shift, eliminating $196 million in revenue sharing to towns which helps fund local education. The budget also eliminates $4 million in funding for public pre-kindergarten.

Meanwhile, the budget will give tax breaks to corporations and the very wealthy. Under the governor’s proposal, the most significant tax breaks go to those individuals making more than $175,000. Corporations will see tax breaks of $60 million over the next four years.

“We know that investing in education early and often is a key to child’s future success. An investment in our students is an investment in our future. Why would we skimp on that?” said Senator Rebecca Millett, who serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “It is not responsible for the LePage budget to reduce our commitment to early childhood education when it’s been shown that a dollar invested today saves $10 in the future as we heard in testimony throughout the day.”

During the hearing, teachers, mayors, parents, small business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, military and public safety officials from across the state urged lawmakers to prioritize investment in education at all levels to help improve Maine’s economic success.

Phyllis Hunter, a special education teacher from Aroostook County, told lawmakers the budget would cripple rural Maine schools and communities.

Hunter said, “I am very concerned that the reduction of the states allocations for public schools and the proposed reduction of revenue sharing will tax these rural communities out of existence.”

Public hearings on the governor’s $6.5 billion budget will continue in the coming weeks.

 

MinimummillProduced by Rep. Hubbell.

AFA Update: Friday March 6, 2015- Services to those with developmental disabilities and to children

The final day of joint hearings between AFA and HHS on the Governor’s proposed 2016-2017 biennial budget dealt with services for children and people with developmental disabilities.

Audio of today’s hearing will be posted when it is available.

Audio is now available. (Clip courtesy of Andi Parkinson.)

Providers and advocates for developmental services testified in favor of the efforts to continue the elimination of waitlists for Sec. 21 services. Other parents, providers and advocates continued their plea to not cut Sec. 65 and 28 services by 10% as heard yesterday.

Others sounded the alarm regarding reductions in home visiting services and asked for continued support of Head Start.

Public Testimony

Commissioner Mayhew’s testimony is here.

HHS will hold work sessions to begin drafting their recommendations to AFA starting at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, March 10 in room 209 in the CSOB.

Appropriations hosts the following committees on the following days next week to continue public hearings on the Governor’s proposed budget.

Monday Education committee
Tuesday IF&W committee and Marine Resources
Wednesday State and Local Government
Thursday Environment and Natural Resources and Energy, Utilities and Technology
Friday Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

AFA Update: Thursday, March 5, 2015- Cuts to mental health and substance abuse treatment

Public hearing day 4 of 5 with AFA and the Health and Human Services committees addressed the Governor’s proposed cuts mental health and substance abuse services including:

  • Riverview Psychiatric Center (RPC)
  • 10% reduction in Sec. 28 and Sec. 65 outpatient community mental health services
  • a drastic reduction in reimbursement for what are now considered medication management services
  • the elimination of coverage for methadone treatment in favor of exclusive use of Suboxone

Audio of today’s hearing is here.

Commissioner Mayhew presented her testimony in defense of the cuts. (Note: the first page of each instance of the Commissioner’s testimony this week is the same. As an example here is previously unpresented testimony from the Commissioner on the initiatives discussed yesterday impacting drug coverage for seniors and reimbursements to providers.)

Dr. Vijay Amarendran of Acadia Health refuted 4 different data points from the Commissioner’s testimony regarding the efficacy of Suboxone and methadone as treatments. In each case he pointed out that the source documents say precisely the opposite of what the Department claims.

Providers testified that the twin cuts in Secs. 28 & 65 and the medication management cuts will result in closing their doors.

Tom McAdam of Kennebec Behavioral Health shared the following rate changes:

Adult
Now: $211/hour               Proposed:$96/hour

a cut of 55%

Children
Now $267/hour                                Proposed: $96/hour

a cut of 64%

This provider estimates that they will have to eliminate service to 4,000 patients statewide. They also believe that the medication management cut alone will cost the provider $2.6M annually.

Other providers testified that there is no medical basis to support the elimination of methadone treatment. Many noted that Suboxone is not an appropriate for those with severe addictions.

The point was repeatedly made that diverted methadone does not primarily  come from addiction clinics, instead from prescriptions for pain management. Finally it was noted that it is illegal for the state to not offer methadone maintenance treatment. The case at issue is Banks v. Concannon (see page 2).

Providers noted again and again that community treatment is cost effective. A year of community treatment costs roughly the same as one day of institutional care.

Providers of outpatient mental health services reminded the committees of incidents that led to the creation of our current system and support of community mental health services. Some referred to the tragic events in Waterville in 1996.

Another provider told the committees that these cuts directly undermine efforts to reform RPC. In order to be discharged from RPC one needs an appointment with a psychiatric provider. That very network is threatened by these cuts.

Public testimony 1

Public testimony 2

Public testimony 3

Public testimony 4

Public testimony 5

Public testimony 6

Schedule

Tomorrow the Health and Human Services public hearings on the biennial budget comes to a close starting at 10:00 AM.

Next week looks like this:

Monday Education committee
Tuesday IF&W committee and Marine Resources
Wednesday State and Local Government
Thursday Environment and Natural Resources and Energy, Utilities and Technology
Friday Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development

 

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.