State Budget Proposal Passes House; Defeated in Senate
A supplemental budget proposal aimed at closing a $120 million shortfall won approval Thursday night in the Maine House before being placed in limbo by the Maine Senate, where Democrats defeated the proposal.Senate President Kevin Raye, a Republican, blasted Democrats who voted against the bill, accusing them of “playing Russian Roulette with the Department of Health and Human Services budget” and putting at risk “Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.”"It is disappointing that 12 Senate Democrats broke with Senate Republicans, House Democrats and House Republicans and that the prospect of the Department of Health and Human Services running out of money in April is now back on the table,” he said.Supporters had hoped for final approval Thursday night to send the bill to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk.Rep. Emily Cain, the House Democratic Leader, said many Democrats in her chamber joined Republicans in voting for the compromise bill because the alternative by the Republican governor and majority Republicans would have been worse.”The hard fact remains we have to keep the lights on, ensure that health care workers get paid, and continue critical health care services for thousands of Maine people,” she said.The supplemental budget proposal aimed to make up for a revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.Additional cuts of more than $80 million for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, will be taken up by legislators later this session.Much of the budget debate has focused on cutting spending for Medicaid, known as MaineCare in Maine.In all, the budget under consideration calls for $157 million in savings, Rep. Patrick Flood, a Winthrop Republican, said while presenting a budget amendment on the House floor.Some of items include reducing the income threshold for parents of children on MaineCare to 133 percent of the poverty level, cutting their ranks by 14,000: trimming optional services such as chiropractic and dental care for MaineCare recipients: and limiting drug choices for MaineCare recipients.The proposed budget also would cut Department of Health and Human Services administrative spending while eliminating vacantstaff positions at DHHS.The budget also called for a tax that is paid on insurance claims and used to support the state’s Dirigo Health insurance program to drop from 1.87 to 1.64 percent in July, as originally scheduled, rather than remain at 1.87 percent as proposed by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. Maine hospitals have proposed that they pay a one-time $14 million assessment to cover rate cut reimbursements that are being eliminated.Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for Governor Paul LePage, said the governor wouldn’t have any comment until the budget made its way through the Legislature.