For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Residents of Rep. Brad Moulton's legislative district overwhelmingly think lawmakers should focus more on cutting taxes and regulation than on preserving public benefits. By a three-to-one margin, they believe MaineCare has grown to an unsustainable level. They also rate health insurance reform and welfare reform as their two most important issues.
Those are a few results from a 12-question survey Rep. Moulton sent to his constituents in District 149, which includes Ogunquit and portions of Kittery, Wells and York. Overall, results corresponded closely with actions of the 125th Legislature, which formally adjourned May 31.
"To a surprising degree, people in my district were on board with the priorities of this legislative session," said Rep. Moulton (R-York), who serves on the Judiciary Committee and the State and Local Government Committee. "They said health insurance and welfare reform were one and two in importance. Fortunately for Maine residents, we passed a health insurance bill that puts Maine back in the American mainstream. We also enacted welfare reform that establishes a five-year limit on TANF benefits, which has been the federal limit since the 1990s."
Another question asked if landowners who open their property for agricultural tourism activities should have limited liability protection. More than 70 percent of respondents said yes.
"The Legislature passed and the Governor signed LD 1605, which provides limited liability for landowners who post signs stating that visitors accept the inherent risks of the activity," Rep. Moulton noted. "We already have similar statutes for skiing and horseback riding, which was a major reason for my supporting the bill in committee."
Another major issue in the Legislature's Second Regular Session centered on a $220 million shortfall in the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), primarily in the MaineCare program. MaineCare is the state's name for Medicaid, a joint state-federal program that provides free health care to low-income residents.
One survey question asked if the Legislature should transfer funds from other parts of state government to fill this gap. By 64 percent to 36 percent, district residents rejected that idea.
"Folks understand that 80 percent of the state budget goes for two things - education and DHHS," Rep. Moulton said. "The reality is that shifting huge amounts of money to DHHS means taking it away from schools and other state agencies."
A related question asked if MaineCare's enrollment has reached an unsustainable level, having grown since 2002 to some 317,000 individuals - about a quarter of the state. By 74 percent to 26 percent, respondents said MaineCare is too big.
"This has been a tough issue for many of us," Rep. Moulton said. "The program clearly has outgrown our ability to pay for it. Right now our hospitals are owed $460 million for MaineCare services, of which Maine's share is $168 million. At the same time, no legislators wish to eliminate health coverage from any of Maine's residents."
The Legislature's final supplemental budget, passed May 15, dealt with the remaining portion of the DHHS shortfall. The changes moved MaineCare eligibility qualifications closer to national standards.
"While I favor limiting some portions of the DHHS budget, I voted against this package because the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee used some measures to balance the budget that I could not support, most particularly cuts to funding for the Fund for a Healthy Maine," Rep. Moulton explained.
Residents also were asked if they would support a one-time General Fund appropriation of $300,000 to the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of building an east-west highway. Respondents were opposed to the idea, two to one.
The $300,000 was approved, but an amendment changed the terms. The vast bulk of the money, $240,000, will come from federal funds earmarked for transportation studies. Maine's share, $60,000, will be reimbursed to the state if a contract to construct the 220-mile road is approved. The road would be privately owned and operated and funded with tolls. ###
Maine House Republicans
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