The Appropriations Committee, in conjunction with the Committee on Health and Human Services, reviewed the Governor’s Proposed Biennial General Fund Budget for the Fund For A Healthy Maine (FHM). The Governor proposes to allocate $53,298,963 in FY 2014 and $52,879,374 in FY 2015 as detailed in the linked chart:
*The Governor changes the program, “Tobacco Prevention & Control” to “Tobacco Prevention, Control, and Treatment.”
**The Governor changes the program, “Community School grants” to “Community School Grants & Statewide Coordination.”
The Fund For A Healthy Maine has been subject to raids over the past two years to balance the budget. Some of the issues in the Biennial Budget include the following:
FAME – Quality Child Care. FHM funding for this program was eliminated by the 125th Legislature. This program provided funding for training child care workers.
Home Visits. FHM funding for this program was eliminated in FY 2013 and is not funded in the 2014-2015 Biennium. Home visits played a major role in reducing shaken Baby Syndrome by 50 percent statewide. In addition, it supported new parents in many different ways.
Community School Grants. In FY 2013, FHM funding for this program was cut by $2.7 million and school coordinators in this program were eliminated from funding. The coordinators had a significant impact and contributed to the efficient use of FHM funds.
Family Planning. Funding for Family Planning was eliminated in FY 2013, and is not funded in the 2014-2015 Biennium. This program provided health care for many low-income women, and for many women, this was their only source of health care.
Donated Dental Services. The shortage of Maine dentists and the refusal of some dentists to treat Medicaid patients have left caused many Maine residents to use the Emergency Room for dental services or to go without access to dental care. FHM funding for donated dental services has been reduced by 14.3 percent since FY 2009.
Head Start. While FHM funding for Head Start is not reduced in the Governor’s Budget, this funding has become more important as a result of a $2.4 cut in the General Fund Budget in FY 2013 for Head Start. This program has been extremely successful nationwide in preparing children in low-income families for school.
Low-Cost Drugs For the Elderly. FHM funding for Low-Cost Drugs for the Elderly is extremely important because funding from the General Fund for this same program has been eliminated in the Governor’s Biennial Budget. For many low income seniors, this program is the only source of funding for their medications.
Hollywood Casino funding for the Fund for a Healthy Maine. The Governor’s budget reduces and caps funding from Hollywood casino revenues at $4.5 million in each year of the Biennium.
The items in the Governor’s budget related to the Fund for A Healthy Maine can be found here.
In front of both the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees OFPR analyst Chris Nolan presented an overview of the history and proposed status of the Fund.
Mr. Nolan was followed by Janet Joyeux of the Attorney General’s Office. She presented testimony in support of the initiatives in the budget.
No one from the Department of Public Safety attended the meeting to speak to their portions of the FHM.
Bill Norbert of FAME presented testimony in favor of initiatives involving FAME in the budget. The funds are used to encourage medical professionals to live and work in Maine’s underserved areas.
Walter Beasley of the Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Program presented testimony as well pertaining to the nearly $214,000 dedicated to school breakfast programs.
Robert Rude, Deputy Commissioner of Finance for DHHS delivered testimony discussing the transfers of funds from around the Department to a consolidated Fund for a Healthy Maine account. The Department intends to discuss programmatic initiatives during HHS Public Hearings.
No one came forward to present testimony on behalf of Dirigo Health.
Commissioner Millett presented testimony in support of the Governor’s proposal to limit the funds that flow to the Fund from Casino revenues, a nearly $1M benefit to the General Fund.
Representative Stuckey asked if any of the other items in the Casino cascade have been similarly capped. Commissioner Millett allowed that they had not.
Members of the public presented testimony in support of the programs and services supported by the Fund for a Healthy Maine and in opposition to the reductions proposed by the Governor. Many also made a plea that deallocations made during the last Legislature be restored including those supporting Family Home Visiting.
Thursday, March 28 at 1:00 PM the Appropriations committee will be joined by the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services to conduct a public hearing on initiatives related to non-MaineCare portions of the budget in the committee’s purview. These items include but are not limited to:
- · ASPIRE
- · Food Supplement
- · General Assistance
- · TANF
The full schedule may be found here.
Please feel free to join the committee as they do their work. You may also listen online using the following link: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/audio/index.htm
Thank you and please let me know if you have questions.