LePage Draws Line In The Sand Over Hospital Repayment Plan 

Governor LePage had some strong words for Democrats Friday. He says nothing will get past his desk until lawmakers pass his hospital repayment plan. Now LePage’s line-in-the-sand approach has created an old-fashioned political standoff. “What he did say this morning is that he’ll veto anything that came across his desk,” said LePage spokesperson Adrienne Bennett.LePage’s frustration has been simmering for more than two months and now that frustration has reached a boiling point. The governor initially outlined his plan to repay $484 million in Medicaid debts owed to Maine hospitals for past Medicaid services with income from future liquor sales. Maine’s 10-year private contract for liquor sales expires in mid-2014. LePage’s plan involves a $184 million bond that triggers a huge federal match that would pay the state’s hospital debt in full. LePage says the time to strike is now before the amount federal that federal match goes down.Gerry Reid, the head of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages, estimates those liquor profits will be roughly $45 million annually. He said under the LePage plan, liquor sold in Maine would be sold at lower prices, allowing Maine’s liquor prices to be more in line with the much cheaper prices offered in New Hampshire, thus ending the days of Mainers taking liquor runs to New Hampshire in order to save bundles of money. Instead those dollars would be spent here in Maine.Democrats called a press conference Friday afternoon to blast the governor for his threat. “It is the type of political gamesmanship that doesn’t belong here in Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall. “The governor seems to be focused more on striking a tone of do nothing politics instead of focusing on the job of governing.”Democrats have proposed their own plan, led by Goodall, on what to do with those liquor profits that experts are estimating at around $45 million a year. Instead of just paying the hospitals, they want it to go into the state’s general fund to be spread around. “That being said, we have a lot of other priorities in this state. We’re underfunding education. The governor has proposed a $400 million tax increase or a shift depending on which way you look at it to municipalities.” Meanwhile, Republicans are equally outraged at the Democrats who they accuse of intentionally stalling LePage’s plan that they say is $500 million shot in the arm to an economy that could sorely use it. “I have two simple questions,” said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette. “First, do the Democrats agree we should pay the hospitals back and put people back to work? Second, if they agree, then when?”Republicans argue that money would get lost in the general fund and hint that the Democrats end game is to use the liquor revenue to further expand entitlement programs at the Department of Health and Human Services instead of paying the state’s bills. “We believe it’s a critically important issue to put people back to work throughout the state. These hospitals are located all over the state. It’s the right thing to do. Democrats ought to get on board with that.”The governor’s bill has been sitting in committee with no action for 43 days. Meanwhile the two sides, with offices separated by just a few hundred feet, continue to trade jabs in the media instead of sitting down and working out their differences. “We would welcome such a meeting. If the Democrats are out there listening, we invite you to a meeting to sit down and talk about this liquor contract and put people back to work.”Public hearings on both plans are scheduled for Monday, March 11.To Read More On Governor LePage’s Plan: Read More On Senator Seth Goodall’s Democratic Plan: