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Dems to pay for abortions with Maine DHHS funds from other programs, bypass Appropriations process on taxpayer funded abortion bill

Left: Speaker Sara Gideon (D – Freeport) has shepherded a bill to provide taxpayer funded abortions in Maine through the Maine House. Right: Maine Governor Janet Mills, who has put forward several proposals to expand abortions in Maine.

AUGUSTA – Employing a maneuver sometimes used by state lawmakers to add new government spending without adding new spending in Maine’s two-year budget, Democrats have approved a bill to fund taxpayer funded abortions while saying they will use existing funds from other programs in Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The maneuver relates to the requirement that any legislation that has what is called a “fiscal note” attached must go through the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee and be added to the state budget before it can receive final approval.

In the case of Maine’s taxpayer-funded abortion bill, the initial fiscal note said that taxpayer funded abortions would cost upward of $1.35 million.

With Governor Janet Mills’ budget projected to spend virtually every penny the state collects in revenue over the next two years and about $100 million in extra spending spending already approved by legislators on the Appropriations Committee’s special table awaiting approval, prospects would not have been as certain for passing the bill into law.

Democrats instead used a revised fiscal note for taxpayer funded abortions that said the previous fiscal note was too high because it overestimated how many surgical abortions would be performed. They said the new, reduced amount of funding in the revised fiscal note could be taken from existing funds at Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. The new, revised fiscal note does not provide any details on how the new estimates were arrived at.

That decision opens the door for DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew to take money from other accounts within DHHS to provide the taxpayer-funded abortions.

Lawmakers who supported the bill could then vote it into law, bypassing the process other bills that will increase spending must go through. This alleviated concerns taxpayer funded abortion supporters had that the bill would be given too low a priority among the dozens of other spending increases and new initiatives they were voting for.

As the legislative session ends, bills that are on the Appropriations Table go through a separate process to decide what will receive funding and what won’t. With the Mills budget already spending virtually every penny and increasing state spending by 11% overall, it is unclear if there will be any funding left for other new spending this session.

The Maine House voted to pass the bill, L.D. 820, on Thursday following approval by the Maine Senate on Tuesday. It still faces an enactment vote in the Maine Senate before it could be sent to Governor Janet Mills for her signature.

Click here to read the original $1.35+ million “fiscal note”. (4/5/2019)

Click here to read the revised $375,000 “fiscal note” that says it will use existing funds. (5/2/2019)

The revised fiscal note states, “This bill provides no new funding. The impact of these new unfunded costs on other programs in the DHHS cannot be determined at this time. The state employee health plan and the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation do not anticipate any additional costs as a result of this bill.”

Because federal law forbids federal tax dollars from being spent on abortions, the funds Maine spends providing abortions will have to come 100% from state taxpayer dollars.

The bill, uses a complicated legal argument to justify the funding. One part of the bill mandates all private health insurance companies cover abortion, while a separate section claims that because women who have private health insurance now have abortion coverage, women on taxpayer funded Medicaid must also be given coverage because they have an equal right to it and should not be ‘discriminated’ against.

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