DHHS and Governor’s Outburst
At 1:30 on Sunday afternoon, the Appropriations committee met to take action on many items and discuss the Governor’s assertion that DHHS will be unable to pay providers at the end of this month.
During a two hour meeting Governor Paul LePage’s claims of an eleventh-hour crisis in the Department of Health and Human Services were debunked by representatives of his own Administration.
The Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and the Governor’s top budget writing officer Sawin Millett confirmed that the shortage had already been addressed in a $35.5 million package of changes to the budget presented to the committee last week.
The Governor took the highly unusual step of attending the Appropriations meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Governor LePage approached the microphone, requesting to speak. In his brief remarks to the committee, he claimed his administration had not been represented–despite the preceding two hours spent with two of his highest ranking budget officials.
The Governor abruptly ended his appearance by saying, “the people of the state of Maine are being played for patsies.”
“Democrats are not going to allow the Governor to hijack a productive hearing just because he didn’t like the outcome,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “We are not going to let the Governor distract us from getting work done.”
Agricultural Fairs Support Fund- correction of reduction noted in Friday’s report from the ACF committee. Friday’s language mistakenly changed the percentage of Racino funding used to support Maine’s agricultural fairs.
Coverage for Dual Eligible individuals for services from LCPCs and LMFTs- the committee voted unanimously to reverse action taken in the supplemental budget. The approved language eliminates coverage for dual eligible individuals through LCPCs and LMFTs. Individuals will still be able to receive care through LCSWs.
This conforms Maine law with current Federal law
The law also provides for a 30 mile exemption for individuals to receive services from an otherwise excluded provider if the client would have to travel greater than 30 miles to see the approved provider. The lines approved are HHS 335-336.
Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly Program- Rep. Chase brought forward a proposal to implement an asset test for the receipt of benefits under the DEL program. No specific proposal was shared.
Rep. Sanborn presented information that other states have found the asset test to be ineffective in generating net savings. Rep. Chase will explore this as part of her ongoing research.
Allowing the State to charge utilities and rent to establishments operated by the blind and visually impaired. Language Part BBB as proposed by the Governor would implement these charges. The administration has proposed changing the language to only charge utilities to the Cross Cafe.
Rep. Carey questioned if this proposal would violate federal law. Commissioner Millett promised to research that issue. The Commissioner shared draft language.
Competitive Skills Scholarship Program- Rep. Carey requested a full explanation of the position elimination sand transfers contained on LCRED pages 53-54 (initiatives 2058-2073). He also expressed concern that the changes had been portrayed as having no program impact.
Language Part HH- This part seeks $100,000,000 to build a new prison to replace the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. AFA requested language directing the department to instead self-fund and conduct a full study of the plan to be submitted next session. In no way does the study presume the funding or construction of the project.
Boating access and wildlife habitat land acquisition- The IF&W committee has requested that the department be authorized to expend funds from the sale of Duck Stamps to purchase land for both boat access and wildlife habitat. The committee unanimously approved those initiatives.
Office of the Chief Medical Examinerb The OCME in the Office of the Attorney General hast requested and the Judiciary committee approved increased funding for volunteer Medical Death Investigators (page JUD-6 initiative 484 and Language Part CC) AFA approved both items as amended by the JUD committee.
Office of Policy and Management- Rep. Carey presented language to charge the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management with not only identifying $30M in savings but also the existing initiative to eliminate 100 positions, a task assigned by the Governor to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. OPM is directed to exhaust vacant positions in this effort. AFA unanimously approved the amended initiative and the amended Language Part F.
The committee will convene Monday after session. The plan is to have on mic discussions and take votes.
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.