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Unusual Sunday Legislative Session Featured Confrontation Between Gov. and Democrats
05/20/2013 12:00 PM ET  

Maine Gov. Paul LePage said the Department of Health and Human Services will run out of money to pay Medicaid providers in three weeks. He's blaming the Democratic-led Legislature for inaction on his budget proposal. Democrats, meanwhile, are accusing the administration of financial mismanagement. A rare session of the appropriations committee was called on Sunday.

AUGUSTA, Maine _ LePage made the shortfall announcement late Friday afternoon following a letter from DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. He used his weekly address to drive home his message.

"We cannot operate government without revenue to pay for it, therefore, legislators must agree on a budget," LePage said.

But House Speaker Mark Eves questioned the timing of the governor's announcement, saying LePage's comments on the medicaid cliff were geared more to "fear mongering than problem solving."

In response, Democrats have asked DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew to meet with the Appropriations Committee for a rare Sunday work session yesterday to face some questions.

Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said legislators should have seen the problem coming.

"I believe you were informed, have been informed so we disagree about whether or not there has been effective communication with this committee."

Finance Commissioner Sawin Millet expressed a similar sentiment, but he told legislators they could clearly pass a budget bill that would solve the problem for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30th.

"We can work our way through this, this is not rocket science nor is it impossible in any way to avoid the disruption and dislocation that would occur if we let the clock continue to turn and action to continue to abound and wait," said Millett.

Then, as the hearing was winding down, Governor LePage rose to speak, only to be cut off by Democratic co-chair State Senator Dawn Hill.

Gov. Paul LePage: "In all due respect, I believe that I've heard some things that I'm not in tuned to and I think that it's appropriate that I make a statement for the record. Recently we had a supplemental budget that was sent to me and I did not sign it and I sent notification that it was not balanced..."
Senator Hill: "Governor, I hate, you know, I'm the chair of this committee and I'm the one who needs to bring this committee to a conclusion and I mean no disrespect to you."
Gov. Paul LePage: "Madame Chair are you saying that the Governor of the state of Maine is not welcome to address the Appropriations Committee?"
Senator Hill: "Governor, quite frankly, I'm not saying that. But had not expected you and I think what we tried to accomplish today was accomplished."

Legislators of both parties said after yesterday's hearing they believe they can craft a budget bill that will see the medicaid program, called MaineCare, through the rest of the fiscal year, which runs until June 30th.


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