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House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport
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For Immediate Release

Date: 09/17/13

Republicans Take the Long View

GOP guards against welfare overspending; Dems chase 'free' money

AUGUSTA - House Republican leaders today emphasized the need to reform Maine's broken budget and stop the welfare overspending that would come with yet another expansion of the state's massive and costly Medicaid program.

"I am shocked that Democrats are talking seriously about expanding the very welfare program that left us $500 million in debt to our hospitals and continues to cannibalize the state's budget year after year," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "Welfare expansion would have to be paid for with higher taxes on working Mainers and reduced funding for our schools and first responders."

Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) estimates that expanding medical welfare to 70,000 able-bodied Mainers would cost:

$70 million in FY 16-17;

$102 million in FY 18-19;

$150 million in FY 20-21; and

$75 million each year thereafter.

"Medicaid expansion is being brought to us by the same liberal big-spenders who gave us our hospital debt and our annual welfare deficits," said Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton. "Their welfare spending spree needs to stop. If we've learned anything over the past decade or two, it's that Medicaid is already the costliest, most out-of-control program in state government."

Maine's Medicaid program has doubled as a share of the state budget from 1997 to 2002, with enrollment more than doubling from 164,000 to 340,000 in the past 13 years alone, according to DHHS. Maine's medical welfare enrollment as a percentage of population ranks third in the nation.

"Republicans take the long view," added Fredette. "We're not looking at the next three years. We're looking out for the next generation and thinking—'how will this unsustainable growth in government spending and welfare dependency affect them?'"

This week, hospitals across the state will receive checks totaling $490 million as payment for years-old unpaid welfare bills. The welfare debt represented the unsustainable growth of Maine's Medicaid program, which perennially shattered cost estimates and left Mainers with higher taxes or less funding for other important state programs. The most recent state budget, enacted this summer, had to address a $200 million shortfall at DHHS caused by Medicaid.

Democrats point to Republican governors who have expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare recently in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Those states have 21 and 17 percent, respectively, of their population enrolled in medical welfare, compared to Maine's 27 percent.

"A bloated welfare system simply cannot coexist with a prosperous economy that brings growth and opportunity to all Mainers," added Fredette. "We need a new direction if we want a stronger Maine."

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