Governor LePage Says GA Billing Demands Local Spending Reforms

February 27, 2015

For Immediate Release: Friday, February 27, 2015
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

Governor’s tax plan gives money directly to taxpayers, not municipalities

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage said Friday that revelations about Portland’s General Assistance (GA) welfare program stand as an example of the kind of overspending that often occurs at the municipal level.

A Department of Health and Human Services review of Portland’s GA welfare program has indicated numerous violations of law and rule that could explain the fact that the city spends 63 percent of all state GA dollars, despite accounting for only five percent of the state’s population.

The review found that the city is billing the GA program for all shelter stayers without determining their GA eligibility at all. Initial findings show that the city knew 13 long-term stayers at Portland’s homeless shelter had bank accounts valued in excess of $20,000 yet the city billed the state’s GA program for the stays anyway.

The 13 individuals had an average of $48,225 in their accounts and had stayed at the shelter for an average of 1,392 nights, which is about three years and 10 months. The top stayer had $92,424 in the bank and had stayed at the shelter for more than 10 years.

“My quarrel is not with the people who stayed at the shelter,” said Governor LePage. “Mental illness often plays a role there. It’s a matter of who pays. The City of Portland knew these people had this money in the bank, but they decided to bill the taxpayers anyway for years’ worth of welfare reimbursement. Municipalities complain about losing revenue sharing, but then I see abuse like this. When municipalities set priorities that unfairly burden Maine property taxpayers, it’s hard to have sympathy for them.”

Portland is not the only city that spends more than its fair share of General Assistance welfare dollars. For example, the City of Augusta in 2014 spent 350 percent more than its similarly sized neighbor of Waterville.

“Tax relief should go directly to the property taxpayer, not to fund more government,” said Governor LePage. “That’s why my tax reform plan gives money directly to the Maine people by tripling property tax fairness credits, doubling the homestead exemption for those over 65 and significantly lowering income tax rates. The most recent news out of Portland shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it serves as an example of why Maine needs real tax reform.”