AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage will gather with most of his fellow governors in Washington, D.C., this weekend to talk about job creation, education reform, fiscal management and a host of other top issues facing chief executives nationwide.
But LePage is also hoping to raise concerns — and perhaps get some answers — about federal Medicaid limitations that he says are hurting Maine.
Maine offers more coverage than the federal minimum for some recipients of MaineCare, as Medicaid is known in the state. For instance, childless adults and the parents of covered children can receive benefits in Maine but not in all states.
LePage has indicated he would like to roll back some of those more generous programs as part of his efforts to cut spending at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
But President Obama’s controversial health care overhaul bill — which the LePage administration, other states and many Republicans want to overturn — would raise those standards by 2014. And in the meantime, states with higher standards are prohibited from going backward.
Democrats see that as a good thing because it protects coverage. LePage disagrees.
“We are being penalized by the federal government because we were more generous in the last decade,” LePage said during his Feb. 11 budget address to lawmakers. “How sad is that? There are plenty of additional things we can do to help everyone in MaineCare, but federal mandates force us to look elsewhere.”
LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt said the governor hopes to discuss the issue with Obama administration officials.
“I know he wants to talk to other governors, too, about what they are doing,” Demeritt said.
Four months after waging a competitive campaign to become Maine’s second independent governor, Eliot Cutler is once again going public with his anti-party message.
On Monday evening, Cutler will join former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, also an independent, in hosting a telephone “town hall” meeting sponsored by an organization known as “No Labels.”
Describing itself as a “social welfare advocacy organization created to provide a voice for America’s vital center,” the No Labels group aims to attract voters disenfranchised with two-party rule.
More than 24,000 people nationwide have signed the “No Labels declaration,” which pledges to “put our labels aside, and put the issues and what’s best for the nation first.”
Cutler was a longtime Democrat who said he dropped his political affiliation several years ago out of frustration with the party. A former lawyer from Cape Elizabeth, Cutler was enjoying a strong, last-minute surge last fall in the polls but ultimately finished 2 percentage points behind Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Monday’s teleconference will feature Cutler and Crist discussing national and state issues as well as an introducing the No Labels movement. Cutler will also answer questions.
Pre-registration is required. Interested persons can sign up for the tele-town hall through Cutler’s Facebook page.
People’s veto group
A fledgling group that hopes to use the ballot box to overturn unpopular laws passed by Republicans in Augusta will hold its second meeting on Saturday.
The Maine People’s Veto Alliance is being organized by Democrats and political progressives concerned about the direction of LePage and the Legislature’s Republican leadership. They hope to have a grassroots network established to help gather the petition signatures needed to get a “people’s veto” initiative on the ballot.
The alliance’s second meeting will be held Saturday at 1:15 p.m. at the Old Goat Pub on Main Street in Richmond.
Those who cannot make it in person can also watch online at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/maine-people-s-voting-alliance.
Here’s a sampling of items coming up in Augusta next week:
- Budget hearings: The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will begin four weeks of public hearings on LePage’s proposed $6.1 billion, 2-year budget.
- Smokers targeted: The Health and Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. on LD 216, which would direct DHHS to develop rules prohibiting smokers from receiving MaineCare benefits.
- Sex offenders: A public hearing in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Thursday at 1 p.m. on a bill, LD 257, that would require law enforcement to notify school superintendents of the presence of convicted sex offenders in the area. Superintendents would then pass that information to teachers and other school personnel.
- Bowen hearing: The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday at 1 p.m. on Stephen Bowen, LePage’s nomination for education commissioner.
- Debris burning: The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hear public testimony Wednesday at 9 a.m. on a bill, LD 479, that would prohibit the burning of construction and demolition debris at municipal dumps and transfer stations.