Gov. LePage, angry at legislature, threatens to cut Drugs for the Elderly program

Gov. LePage, angry at legislature, threatens to cut Drugs for the Elderly program

Maine Governor Paul LePage announced on Monday that, due to a refusal of legislative leaders to call a special session to reconsider certain legislation, he will use an executive order to begin making cuts to and transfers from a set of state-administered health care programs, including the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled Program and the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

“All the bills are funded. There is no need for this order,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond in response. “These programs have been on Gov. LePage’s chopping block for a long time, and he’s using this manufactured chaos as cover to slash their funding,” said Sen. Alfond. “He wasn’t able to win support in the Legislature to gut these programs, so he’s abusing his authority to make the cuts by executive order.”

Democratic leaders say they are examining their options to force Gov. LePage to follow the laws as passed and use the funding sources identified by the legislature.

“This entire process of threatening to call an unnecessary special session at a cost of thousands of dollars to Mainers and then issuing an executive order stripping funding from programs he doesn’t like is another example of the Governor creating election-year turmoil to accomplish what he couldn’t in the Legislature,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves.

LePage also threatened to implement “a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures” at state mental health institutions, which would seem to fly in the face of one of the laws in question, meant to increase salaries and improve working conditions at Maine’s mental hospitals.

“We know that understaffing at Riverview is creating poor working conditions for employees and jeopardizing the safety of staff and patients alike,” said Senator Anne Haskell, lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. “Gov. LePage’s hiring freeze is sure to exacerbate the well-publicized issues at Riverview, not solve them. This hospital still cannot pass accreditation by the federal government. The latest maneuver by the governor serves no one’s interests — not the staff’s, and certainly not the patients’.”

Photo via Andi Parkinson.

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