LePage Urges Democrats To Pass Hospital Repayment Plan If They Care About Mainers

Rob Poindexter

Updated 1 year ago

With threats of a government shutdown and all-out vetoes, Governor LePage’s hospital repayment plan has become the most hotly debated bill in Augusta. LePage says the time to act is now. “I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican, you were elected to come here and do a job. You were elected to do a tough job. There are tough decisions to be made,” LePage said Wednesday.LePage says paying Maine’s bills has been a top priority since he took office. One of the state’s biggest creditors has been Maine’s hospitals, who are still owed nearly $500 million in unpaid Medicare debt that’s been piling up since 2009. The governor has submitted a plan he says would pay that debt in full while injecting $700-million into the Maine economy and not only save jobs, but allow hospitals to hire new employees.LePage’s plan would use revenue from the state’s liquor contract to pay back $184 million of the debt and trigger a federal match that would wipe out the rest of the $484 million worth of state debt owed to hospitals. In 2004, the state sold its liquor contract to the privately owned Maine Beverage Company for $150 million. Over the past decade that contract has generated well over $300 million, leaving Maine taxpayers coming up short by millions. That contract expires next year and both Democrats and Republicans are vowing that Maine will get more bang for its buck this time around. The governor wants to use those revenues to pay the state’s bills and help Maine’s struggling hospitals Last month, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington announced roughly 40 layoffs saying the state owes them $15.4 million in unpaid MaineCare bills. “What I’m trying to do is to get the $484 million that we owe our hospitals and get the money into their hands so Franklin Memorial doesn’t have to lay off anymore people. Parkview doesn’t have to lay off anymore people,” LePage said. “Every hospital in the state is up against it. They’re laying off people. We have to stop it.”The governor has softened his threat to veto every bill until his plan is passed, but that doesn’t mean he’ll sign the bills that get to his desk. Republicans have pointed to a number of bills they say have been fast tracked while the governor’s plan has sat in committee. A bill that would extend the hours people can purchase alcohol when St. Patrick’s Day when the holiday falls on a Sunday as one example of what Republican leaders call insignificant legislation that’s already awaiting the governor’s signature. “I’m not going to sign legislation,” he said. “If they think they’re going to scurry around and open bars on Sunday at 6:00 a.m. and deal with insignificant proposals like they did the first session. Two years ago they were dealing with whoopie pies and blueberry pies.”Democrats argue that the St. Patrick’s Day bill is far less complicated than a proposal to spend $484 million. They say the governor’s threat is counterproductive. “It’s really frustrating,” said Skowhegan Democrat Jeff McCabe. “The governor continues to have tantrums over not getting his way. Stomping his feet. It’s just not rationale behavior.” Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall has introduced a counter proposal outlining how Democrats want to handle the expiring liquor contract and the cash windfall it’s expected to generate. The great divide between Republicans and Democrats lies in where those liquor profits will be spent. Goodall says, instead of putting all the money toward the hospital debt, he wants to let the Appropriations Committee split the profits up to fill a plethora of state needs. “As a result of that there will be funds available to pay our bills and make investments. That includes paying back the hospitals,” Goodall said. “We need to do that, but we also have to invest in our kids, our water and sewer, as well as our roads and bridges.” Republicans are opposed to Goodall’s plan in it’s current form because they say it doesn’t fully address the hospital debt that Republicans and LePage see as a crisis.LePage said if the Democratic majority tries to block his hospital plan, they’ll have to answer to Maine voters. “I’ll let the Maine people speak,” LePage said. “Seriously if they do that, that’s a real shame. They simply don’t want to pay their debts and that’s a shame. And I think the Maine people won’t put up with it.” The governor is urging the legislature to act now. Not only does he say it will help Maine’s struggling hospitals, but he says the impact of Washington’s sequestration fiasco will soon be felt here in the Pine Tree State. “I’ve received a letter from every agency in the federal government saying there’s going to be some massive impacts to the state of Maine. Borders, airports, all over the place.”Public hearings on LePage’s plan and the Democrat’s counter proposal are scheduled for next Monday. The governor says lawmakers have a choice to make. “We have an opportunity this year to to really offset a lot of the problems in Washington by putting $700 million into our economy. that should make them all run upstairs and just vote yes to pay the hospitals and get that money into the economy. But you know it’s not about that. It’s not about Maine people. It’s about ideological, let’s get this governor we don’t like him. How about the 1.3 million people that need our help?” To read more detail of Governor LePage’s plan:http://www.wabi.tv/news/36820/lepage-unveils-massive-jobs-plan-says-its-time-for-maine-to-pay-its-billsTo read more detail on senator Seth Goodall and the Democrat’s plan:http://www.wabi.tv/news/37908/republicans-accuse-democrats-of-stalling-hospital-repayment-and-costing-maine-jobs


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