This week Health and Human Services and Appropriations committee held lengthy public hearings on the governor’s proposed biennial budget, LD 390 An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2018 and June 30, 2019.
Morning testimony focused on the non-DHHS departments and agencies under the oversight of the HHS committee.
- Developmental Disabilities Council
- Children’s Trust
- Disability Rights Center
- Maine Health Data Organization
- Maine Hospice Council
There was no opposition to these portions of the budget.
The afternoon brought testimony regarding cuts to hospitals and to MaineCare eligibility.
Those items include:
- Reduce Critical Access Hospital reimbursement from 109% to 101% of Medicare reimbursement- rejected 2011, 2013, 2015
- Reduce reimbursement for hospital based physicians- rejected 2013, 2015
- Eliminate health care for 18-19 year olds- rejected by Feds 2012, rejected by courts 2012, 2013, 2015
- Eliminate health care for parents of children making as little as $6,020- rejected by Feds 2012, rejected by courts 2012, 2013, 2015
Public opposition was unanimous.
Convening at 10:00 AM both committees heard about the administration’s plans to eliminate General Assistance, prohibit support for legally present new Mainer’s, and institute draconian sanctions in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
They also heard lengthy and unanimous opposition to these changes, many of which have been previously rejected by the legislature in one form or another.
- Eliminate General Assistance- rejected in various forms since 2013
- Change disability determination period- rejected 2013, 2015
- Eliminate help for legally present new Mainers- rejected 2011, 2013, 2015
Testimony went into the evening.
Prior to the scheduled public hearing Sen. Breen shared a proposed amendment to the supplemental budget.
Moving on to items related to the administration of the department Alec Porteous, Deputy Commissioner of Finance for the department presented testimony.
Alec shared information about the MaineCare Review process by which the department projects expenditures every six months using object level data. He indicated that this information could be shared with the committee.
Also scrutinized was language providing the department with broad authority to adopt emergency rules to implement programs and changes with very limited legislative oversight. This language was first used in 2009 to allow the department to quickly implement a particular initiative while the legislature was out of session. It has been asserted as “boilerplate” language ever since.
The afternoon focused on cuts to Maine’s public health infrastructure proposed by the governor.
A final work session was held on LD 302, the supplemental budget,. An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2017
The Appropriations committee:
Unanimously approved $155K necessary to hold the scheduled June 2017 referendum election.
On a 9-2 vote the committee removed the governor’s proposed $550K to promote diversity at the University of Maine School of Law. Members expressed concern about the appropriateness of addressing this in a supplemental budget.
Members spoke of their disappointment that agreement could not be reached to pay the state’s obligation to provide indigent legal services.
It was also expressed that the policy committee is the proper place to determine the path forward on support for county jails.
The supplemental budget was unanimously approved as amended.
Proceeding with the HHS committee the final day of Health and Human Services public hearings opened with testimony by Deputy Commissioner for Programs Ricker Hamilton.
- Substance abuse and adult mental health
- Services for the elderly and disabled
- Developmental disabilities
- Children’s mental health
- Other Children’s services
The Secretary of State testified in opposition to the administration’s plan to transfer responsibility from the Driver Education and Evaluation Program (DEEP) from DHHS to his office.
Jim Martin, Director of the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) presented information related to his office including the elimination of state funding for Head Start. A proposal rejected in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
Though not in the budget as initiatives, the department is poised to implement rate cuts to both Sec. 17 Community Support Services and Sec. 65 Behavioral Health Services. This faced opposition.
The budget does contain another attempt to use estate recovery to claim homes held in joint tenancy to repay MaineCare costs incurred by those older than 55 years of age. This has been rejected at least twice in 2009 and 2010.
Providers, consumers and the families of consumers gave their support for increases in Sec. 29 services.
Monday morning public hearings continue with the State and Local Government committee.