Governor Paul LePage held another press conference promoting his position to cut back on MaineCare, putting thousands at risk and jeopardizing 4,400 jobs. He said it is necessary for his supplemental budget. But his accountancy doesn’t add up. And the question remains: Why cut MaineCare? There are other areas where funds could be found to make up for the budget shortfall. Hundreds testified against his proposed devastating budget cuts.
LePage’s press conference today was meant to distract and confuse the public about the cause of the $220 million shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The governor also ended up during a town hall-style meeting at Mt. Abram High School in Salem Township, near Kingfield. lying about what a Forbes magazine representative told him. According to LePage Forbes said that Maine must cut spending, reduce energy costs and address welfare structural problems or the state would continue to be “in the cellar” of the magazine’s rankings of the best states for business. Forbes denies the statements.
All the smoke and mirrors that LePage tried to project to the media can’t hide the fact that 500 hundred people packed the state house protesting the governor’s proposed cuts.
“Hundreds of Maine people have packed the State House to testify against the governor’s cuts,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo who serves as the lead Democrat on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “The governor must stop the distractions, and start listening to the public comment on his shameful and devastating proposals.”
Today was the second of three days of public hearings scheduled on the governor’s proposed cuts. The governor’s budget released last week proposes to close a claimed $220 million shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services by taking away health care for more than 65,000 Maine people and slashes funding for Head Start and the Fund for Healthy Maine. The cuts will also make 6,000 Maine people, including the elderly, veterans, and the disabled homeless.
“We’ve spent hours listening to the public about how these cuts will jeopardize our economy and public and safety,” said Rep. Mark Eves, the lead Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. “The governor should be listening too, instead of trying to distract and confuse the public about his administration’s failure to properly plan their budget.”
An analysis of the shortfall shows the administration underestimated the cost of assisted living facilities, did not plan for the loss of certain federal dollars, failed to plan for real-time non-critical access hospital payments, potentially made overpayments to hospitals and underestimated Medicaid claims in the two-year budget. In the same budget, the governor provided a tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthiest Maine people earning more than $117,000.
During the press conference, the governor attempted to distract from the real cause of the shortfall and continued to confuse the issue by blaming enrollment growth in MaineCare.
Enrollment growth in MaineCare has increased by approximately 2 percent during the last 11 months of his administration. The total cost incurred from the increase in enrollment is $6.5 million of the entire claimed $220 million shortfall.
“In a week’s time we’ve heard many excuses from the governor. First, he blamed the Democrats, then he blamed enrollment growth, today he blamed affordable housing agencies. What’s it going to be next week?” said Senator Margaret Craven. “We need to get back to the task at hand. The governor must be accountable for his poor planning. And, most importantly we need to look at the impact these drastic cuts are going to have on the elderly, disabled, veterans, children and the poor.”