LePage’s veto spree hurts people, the environment, education, jobs and Maine’s quality of life

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 20th, 2014 

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The most widely known veto of Governor Paul LePage’s was when he decided not to accept any Affordable Care Act funding from the federal government for Medicare. The state would have had free funding for three years and 70,000 people would be covered with healthcare insurance. Instead those people are at risk and Maine’s hospital debt is rising once again.

Another problem with LePage’s veto of healthcare for over 70,000 people in Maine is that by doing so he will incur greater costs to the state. The reimbursement from the federal government of 3 to 1 in Medicare dollars has been going to Maine’s hospitals to repay the debt the state owes them. Without that funding that debt, which LePage was so critical of last year, will again begin to rise.

“Medicare reimbursement matching funds went to the hospitals with the system known as “Pay as You Go,” to pay our debt that had accrued over decades. Without federal funding the state’s debt to the hospitals will begin to go up again,” said former Gov. John Bladacci. “The more tragic reality about not accepting the ACA funding is that people will not have sufficient access to healthcare which could save their lives. Healthcare is a right not a privilege.”

Maine hospitals, which have backed the Affordable Care Act federal funding, are expected to lose $730 million in Medicare reimbursements by 2022.

LePage also vetoed a measure that would have reinstated solar rebates and started a thermal heat pump incentive. These are two measures that would have spurred Maine’s innovation economy and helped combat oil bills with renewable energy.

This apparent anti-business governor’s veto spree didn’t end there.

With a total of 142 vetoes during his tenure, Governor LePage has exceeded the number of vetoes by any other Governor, including the previous record holder, one-term Governor Jim Longley with 118 vetoes. LePage has 10 days to issue more vetoes, and Lawmakers will return May 1 to try and override some.

LD 1431, encouraged the use of Maine-produced food in Maine schools was vetoed Friday:

“It is unfortunate that the governor does not value this bill for what it is – a collaboration between his own administration’s departments of Agriculture and Education to help grow institutional markets for Maine farmers and fishermen,” said Senator Chris Johnson, who is the sponsor of the measure. “And it helps the food service in more Maine schools succeed in providing healthier food for our children just as innovative school systems in Maine are already doing.

The bill supports the creation of “food hubs” where locally produced food can be aggregated, minimally processed (such as washing and chopping), stored, and distributed. It also creates a competitive, grant-funded school food service training program, and seeks federal grants to operate the program.

LePage’s veto spree hits bills on mining rules and phone utility mergers:

Governor’s LePage vetoed LD 1851, An Act To Delay Implementation of the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act and Related Statutory Provisions, and LD 1761, An Act To Ensure That Large Public Utility Reorganizations Advance the Economic Development and Information Access Goals of the State.

“The Legislature has an obligation to ensure that the state’s mining rules protect our waters and taxpayers,” Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport, the House chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, said about the veto of LD 1851. “If we are to have mining in Maine, we must make sure it protects our groundwater, lakes and other waterways. If we are to have mining in Maine, we must make sure that taxpayers are not saddled with clean-up costs as they have been in the past.”

“As legislators, we have a duty to protect Maine consumers and employees, as well as the state’s interests in economic development and information access, during large phone utility mergers or reorganizations. We must not have another harmful merger like the one we saw between Verizon and Fairpoint,” said Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, the sponsor of LD 1761 and House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “This measure ensures that safety, reliability and service quality will be front and center in such reorganizations.”

Another veto hurts seniors:

Le Page swiftly vetoed LD 1806, An Act To Implement the Recommendations Contained in the State Government Evaluation Act Review of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System.

“The governor is jumping to conclusions and undermining the work of the MainePERS board whose primary fiduciary responsibility is to maximize the returns on investments for Maine state retirees,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the bill’s sponsor.

LePage vetoed a measure that would have ensured the fair and effective evaluation of teachers:

LD 1747, Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education had the unanimous bipartisan support of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. It won House approval with a vote of 118- 20 and passed in the Senate with unanimous consent.

“This bill is about local control and allowing communities to create evaluation systems that meet their needs,” said Rep. Bruce MacDonald, the bill’s sponsor and the House chair of committee. “Students, their families and their teachers are well-served when these systems have fair ground rules and local input. Teachers would have a meaningful voice while local schools retain the final word.”

The Education Committee worked to make sure that evaluations standards were not overly weighted toward student results on standardized tests known to be biased against low-income students. The bill permits evaluations to consider a broader range of
student learning measures without restricting them to arbitrary state-imposed caps.

If a community is unable to reach consensus on its own evaluation system, it would use a state plan.

The rules were based on other state models the federal Department of Education has already deemed in compliance with the requirements of No Child Left Behind waiver system.

LePage continues to obstruct citizens from participating in meetings and receiving state information-

Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of LD 1809, An Act Concerning Meetings of Boards of Trustees and Governing Bodies of Quasi-municipal Corporations and Districts That Provide Water, Sewer and Sanitary Services makes government transparency, in this case, impossible.

“Absent a specific statutory authorization under the Right to Know law, officials cannot particulate remotely at meetings because it interferes with the right of the public, according to the Attorney General. The public has a right to interact with these officials in person and to testify before them in person,” said Priest, the bill’s sponsor and House chair of the Judiciary Committee. “The testimony we heard indicated that some water and sewer districts are not acting in accordance to the law. This bill gives them the protection they need.”

LePage attacks the tobacco settlement funding stream hurting prevention programs with another veto, LD 1719:

“The tobacco settlement dollars are Maineʼs primary source of state funding for prevention programs,” said Rep. Megan Rochelo, the bill’s sponsor. “This arbitration funding is equivalent to a public health and disease prevention stimulus package. At a time when investments in public health and disease prevention has been reduced over recent years to fill budget shortfalls and when recent evidence-based reports and publicly available data show us that cigarettes have become more deadly and that certain parts of our state have not made any progress reducing smoking rates among certain populations, it is critical to use this funding for its intended purposes.”

The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee worked on a bipartisan compromise and LD 1719 is the unanimous work of the committee. Some items were removed from the original proposal and funding was added to support the initiative originally proposed in LD 62, which addresses a need for adult day services.