Instead of acknowledging the $220 million budget shortfall the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is confronted with, Democrats would rather deny the numbers, skew facts and ignore the problem altogether. For decades, policies led by Democratic leadership have expanded Medicaid benefits far beyond the national average creating an unsustainable program. Maine people deserve better and Governor Paul LePage is committed to overseeing a government that is held accountable and fiscally responsible.
In a bipartisan effort, the Governor briefed Democrats and Republicans last week on the DHHS supplemental budget."I've asked the legislative leadership on both sides to please put your differences aside. This is crisis time," the Governor said Tuesday.
"We have proposed a plan that saves Medicaid for 290,000 people," says the Governor.
Shortly after the meeting, Rep. Margaret Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said the Governor's proposed cuts are too deep to achieve at the expense of just one program or agency."We think (any necessary cuts) should be done in a comprehensive way," she said.
Rep. Emily Cain, of Orono, also attacked the Governor's plan. "The Governor has taken the wrong approach to finding common ground with this dangerous and shortsighted proposal," she said.
In Governor LePage's weekly message, he encourages Democrats to address the financial crisis Maine's largest State agency faces. "Let me be clear," the Governor says. "Any proposal that includes across the board cuts to our teachers, police officers, forest rangers, and plow truck drivers is irresponsible. Nor will I support shifting the burden onto our hardworking taxpayers. Medicaid has expanded so much that other state agency budgets have been cannibalized. Across the board cuts will result in the elimination of hundreds of state programs that will affect all Mainers."
If across the boards cuts were implemented it's estimated that $102 million would need to be cut from education -- devastating local schools and our higher education system.
DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew confirms that current money is being borrowed from fourth quarter allocations to pay for services within the Medicaid program today. "We will be out of money on April 1st if we do not address this once and for all," says the Governor. "Federal funds have dried up. We are no longer receiving hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus money to cover the expanded Medicaid program."
The facts are clear, since 2002, Medicaid enrollment has grown by 78 percent. Today, we have 361,000 Mainers using the program -- 30 percent of Maine's population. As Medicaid has expanded spending has risen significantly; in the last 10 years, Medicaid spending has increased by $1 billion -- a 45 percent increase. The proposal Governor LePage has outlined is a responsible approach that better aligns us with Medicaid programs in other states while protecting and preserving services for Maine's seniors, disabled and children.
Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, applauds the Governor for concentrating on an issue that has been overlooked for years. "Democrats must come to terms with this very real problem," says Rep. Cushing. "The Governor has made difficult and painful decisions to correct an ongoing structural deficit that has been neglected in the last decade. None of us like this, but we must recognize that if we do not make the structural changes to this program we will continue to have to fill this shortfall every year. It is not going away and using scare tactics on the Maine people isn't helping us toward a solution."