Today AFA held a public hearing on the Change Package, took votes and received a briefing on flaws in DHHS’s presentation of MaineCare cycle payments.
After late this afternoon the Governor shared with Presiding Officers a letter asserting that DHHS would run out of funds to pay providers in the beginning of June without an enacted budget by May 28. You may find the letter here: https://mainebudget2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/20130517165550247.pdf
The Appropriations committee will meet on Sunday with the Commissioner, on mic, to explore why the department believes this to be true and why they are only bringing this information forward now.
Department responses to questions and further committee guidance
Policy committees continue to provide guidance to Appropriations. Some Departments answer questions posed to them by committees.
Change Package Public Hearing
Today, the Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the Governor’s proposed Change Package to the Biennial Budget. Testimony focused primarily on:
General Assistance and TANF,
The Milk Pool, the Milk Stabilization Fund, and assistance to farmers,
Access to Health Care,
Access to Legal Services, and
Teacher health insurance
General Assistance and TANF. Testimony opposed
• The reduction of the maximum benefit by 10 percent,
• The limitation of housing to 270 days per calendar year, and
• Exclusion of applicants for General Assistance who have reached the 60 month limit for TANF benefits.
o The Director of Bangor’s Health and Community Services Department and others testified that the most vulnerable will be hurt by these limitations. Bangor has established effective safeguards against social services fraud and sanctioned 192 individuals last year with 5 individuals prosecuted for fraud.
Testimony from at least 4 people supported the Governor’s proposal to increase from $100 per month to $200 per month the special need housing payment for TANF families [for persons whose housing needs exceed 75% of their income].
Access to Legal Services. ` The Maine Bar Association and others testified in favor of
the Change Package provisions that:
• Increase funding to Pine Tree Legal Assistance by $100,000 in each year of the Biennium, and
• Increase by $1 million funding for the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services for FY 2013.
Access to Health Care. The Maine Medical Association and the “Cover Maine Now Coalition testified:
In favor of full implementation of the ACA’s Medicaid option.
In favor of the State chartering its own non-profit insurance company.
Currently 140,000 Mainers are uninsured, and the Affordable Care Act expansion would cover 69,500 people, including 7,000 uninsured Maine veterans,
The Maine Association for Community Service Providers [MACSP] testified in favor of full funding of the Portland Dental Clinic, which is the only clinic in the State to provide dental care services to persons with behavioral and intellectual challenges, and who often require sedation. MACSP also testified:
• In favor of the additional $2 million as state seed money to fund additional slots in the Section 29 waiver, and
• In favor of the correction to replaced targeted case management to targeted care management.
Retired Teacher Health insurance. Testimony focused on the fact that the State funds only 45% of teacher health insurance. Teachers fear that the budget could require increased deductibles. Thousands of teacher retirees ages 75-95 years old do not qualify for Medicare and have very low retirement checks.
Assistance to Dairy Farmers. Testimony was colorful in regard to $3 million of assistance to dairy farmers that pitted large producers from small and medium-sized producers. The issue involved application of the same percentage of the total $3 million to all farmers regardless of size. Small dairy farmers claimed that larger dairy farmers benefit from lower feed and fuel prices, compared to the 275 dairy farmers in Tiers one and two. Small dairy farmers claim that many of them are at risk of going out of business and their costs are greater than those of the larger dairy farmers.
Tobacco Enforcement. The Appropriations Committee also heard testimony supporting the retention of tobacco enforcement in the Attorney-General’s Office. The Biennial Budget transfers this responsibility to DHHS.
Sudden and Severe Disruption. The Maine Municipal Association testified in support of language allowing municipal assessors who meet certain standards to complete applications for sudden and severe adjustments and enhanced BETR payments.
Callahan Mine. The Committee heard from Bruce Van Note in regard to funding for the Callahan Mine clean-up. Following at least a decade of General Fund appropriations to clean up the site, there is great interest in the final date of completion of this problem.
MPBN. The LePage Administration has sought to eliminate all funding for MPBN. Commissioner Sawin Millett gave an update on this issue. The LePage Administration wants to provide payments only for maintenance of emergency radio operating system services. A separate bill will be most likely. Language to allow for more flexibility in the governance board of MPBN has not been changed.
DHHS Cycle Payments
Chris Nolan of the Office of Fiscal and Program Review presented the committee with updated information on the Department of Health and Human Services request for significant additional funds for MaineCare cycle payments.
After 5:00 PM the committee took unanimous votes to accept or reject initiatives from the ACF report and both initiatives and language in the Change Package.
Voting documents for these items are below:
The committee will work Sunday. The plan is to have on mic discussions and take votes.
TO BE DISCUSSED SUNDAY
The Committee may take-up budget initiatives related to the Blind and Visually Impaired, milk, the General-Highway Funds split for funding the State Police, The Apprenticeship and Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, the Office of Policy and Management [find $30 million to apply to the budget shortfall], Reimbursement of Licensed Clinical Professional therapists for services to dual eligible, funding for the Medical Examiner, and MPBN. Also to be discussed is the possibility of an asset test for the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly and the proposed sales tax on newspapers and other periodicals. The Committee hopes to vote on issues as well.
The committee has also demanded that Commissioner Mayhew appear to discuss the Governor’s assertions regarding available funding for DHHS.
The full schedule may be found here: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/schedule_agendas/index.htm
Audio and more
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
You also may watch broadcasts of these and other committee hearings on the Maine Capitol Connection pilot channel through Maine Public Broadcasting. You may watch over the air or through your cable provider as well as online here: http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineCapitolConnection.aspx
Thank you and please let me know if you have questions.