Following is the weekly radio address from Governor Paul LePage for the week ending December 29, 2018.
When I took office, MaineCare was running biennial budget deficits of more than $200 million, and our state owed the hospitals $750 million in Medicaid debt. I campaigned on paying the hospitals without raising taxes, and I did. It was one of our signature accomplishments.
Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.
My administration has worked hard to bring our state’s finances back
from a sea of red ink and into the black. MaineCare is now on
sustainable financial footing. It has not run a shortfall in years, and
the hospitals have been repaid in full–this is a turnaround of nearly
one billion dollars.
But our state continues to devote significant resources to healthcare
and social services. DHHS funding accounts for 34 percent of General
Fund spending, and MaineCare spending alone accounts for 23 percent of
the General Fund. It has tripled as a percentage of the General Fund
budget over 30 years.
Although our reforms have right-sized the MaineCare program, there
are 85,000 more individuals in our state receiving Medicaid benefits
today than there were in 2001. One-in-five Mainers is enrolled in
MaineCare, and as of September, MaineCare enrollment is 48 percent
greater than it was in 2001. But since 2001, Maine’s population has
grown by only 4 percent.
Now we are facing another Medicaid expansion. The people of Maine
voted for it, and it needs to be implemented. But it should be done
responsibly, and it should not plunge the state back into that sea of
red ink. We have worked too hard to see Maine return to the days of
annual shortfalls, voo-doo accounting and one-time budget gimmicks.
If our state were to fund Medicaid expansion using existing General
Fund dollars, MaineCare’s share of the General Fund would grow to 25
percent–or one-in-every-four tax dollars that Mainers send to Augusta.
That would begin to cannibalize other General Fund priorities, just as
during the last Medicaid expansion. Healthcare, social services and
education expenditures already account for nearly 80 percent of General
Fund expenditures. Taking more General Fund dollars for Medicaid means
taking them away from other state agencies.
Medicaid expansion can be funded responsibly and without harm to the
General Fund. It can be funded via the existing hospital tax. At a cost
of nearly $100 million annually, the Legislature has not yet identified a
sustainable means to fund this significant new expenditure. If
legislators fail to identify another permanent funding source, tax
dollars will be required to support expansion.
Tax dollars in the General Fund come from Maine’s hard-working
taxpayers. They should not have to foot the bill for another Medicaid
expansion. Since the hospitals stand to benefit by at least $100 million
from expansion, the new revenue they receive would more than cover any
tax expense, and the hospitals would still come out ahead financially.
The federal government allows the tax as a reimbursable expense.
Therefore, the federal government would reimburse at least 60 percent of
the tax at current rates.
I will be leaving office in a few days. But I will be watching. My
administration and my staff and so many good people in state government
have worked much too hard for much too long to simply sit back and watch
a new administration drive Maine’s finances and its economy back into
I wish the new administration much success. But if they start up the financial shenanigans we saw in previous administrations, I will promise you this. I’ll be back. Thank you for listening. Have a happy and healthy 2019.