After promising the people of Maine he would pay Maine's hospitals, Governor Paul R. LePage has made good on that promise. More than 150 days after first introducing his plan to pay Maine's $484 million in hospital debt, the Governor finally had the opportunity Friday to sign LD 1555 "An Act To Strengthen Maine's Hospitals and To Provide for a New Spirits Contract." He did so with little fanfare citing "it's simply the right thing to do."
"Paying our bills is the right thing to do, it's just unfortunate that Democrats waited so long to make the right decision for the people of Maine," Governor LePage said.
On January 15, Governor LePage announced his plan to pay $484 million in unpaid Medicaid bills -- debt dating back to 2009 -- to Maine hospitals. In March, Democrats proposed a "new" hospital plan, which was rejected in Committee. Democrats also claimed the Governor's bill was unconstitutional before holding the bill up in Committee and refusing to allow a vote. Furthermore, Democrats tried tying Medicaid expansion to the hospital bill in late May, a strategy the Governor vetoed on May 23.
With $484 million debt erased, the Governor said he will issue voter-authorized bonds, including $51.5 million for transportation infrastructure improvements and $53.5 million for conservation, clean water upgrades, and construction and energy efficiency at post-secondary educational institutions.
In a letter dated May 23, Governor LePage requested the State Treasurer to start preparing those bonds for his signature. "Lastly, as I have said all along, once we have our fiscal house in order, we will be in a position to release the authorized bonds. As a measure of good faith, I am hereby directing the State Treasurer to begin to prepare those bonds for my signature on an expedited basis. I will sign them as soon as this new Governor's Bill is enacted. I hope she will act quickly to ensure our economy can get back to work," he wrote.The Governor has not yet received any information from the Office of the Treasurer.
Governor LePage has consistently said that it is irresponsible to issue new debt without a credible plan to pay the State's outstanding debts.