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For Immediate Release

Date: 04/25/13

Democrats Vote to Spend More Money Maine Doesn't Have

Additional $42 million to DHHS is latest in a weekslong spending binge

AUGUSTA - House Democrats today voted in favor of two bills to increase spending at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) by almost $10 million per year. The two bills proscribe $41.6 million in new spending over the next four fiscal years and for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

The first, LD 87, would allow mental health patients under MaineCare to use whatever facility or treatment type they like and was passed 92-51. It comes with a price tag of $5.66 million per year.

The second, LD 629, would increase spending on the Drugs for the Elderly Program. The national average for eligibility for similar programs is 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Last term, the Republican-controlled Legislature reduced Maine's eligibility level from 185 percent to 175 percent of the poverty level in an effort to balance the budget. The bill passed by Democrats today would increase eligibility back up to 185 percent, costing about $4 million per year.

Maine's eligibility levels for Drugs for the Elderly were originally set before Wal-Mart and other large pharmacies offered generic prescription drugs for a few dollars apiece. Additionally, the heightened funding of the program duplicates benefits available at the federal level through Medicare.

Today's votes to increase spending even further come on the tail of yesterday's votes by Education Committee Democrats to increase spending by $30 million without paying for it, recent votes by Taxation Committee Democrats to remove key savings initiatives from the Governor's proposed budget without proposing alternatives, and a slew of other votes in policy committees to increase spending, hand out tax credits, or nullify spending reductions in the Governor's budget.

"Democrats are acting like they have a surplus," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport). "I've been concerned over the past few months that they lack solutions for balancing the budget, but now I'm concerned that they're actively trying to increase the shortfall. The more money they spend, the bigger their tax hike package is going to be. The responsible solution is to reduce wasteful and duplicative spending and balance our budget like so many Maine families do every day."

Assistant House Republican Leader Alexander Willette (R-Mapleton) added that, eventually, Democrats will have to stop passing the buck. "This budget isn't going to balance itself," he said. "It's ironic how Republicans just introduced a bill to improve the financial literacy of high school students. Perhaps it's not high schoolers who need to take the class."

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Contact:
David Sorensen
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793