June 23, 2018
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Dozens protest DHHS cuts as Senate deliberates budget

Joe Phelan | AP
Joe Phelan | AP
Senate President Kevin Raye (left), R-Perry, and Speaker of the House Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, hold a news conference on Thursday, May 10, 2012 in the State House in Augusta to announce a plan to close an $83 million gap at the Department of Health and Human Services.
By Scott Thistle, Sun Journal

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers were greeted with a boisterous protest Tuesday as they headed back to finish work on the state’s budget.

Dozens of people opposed to proposed cuts to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services lined the corridors to the Maine Senate and House of Representatives chanting,”Protect Maine families” and “Maine can do better” and “No more cuts.” The chanting could be heard as a muffled roar inside the Senate chamber when Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, called the Senate to order.

On the agenda is a budget proposal that aims to solve a more than $80 million budget shortfall in the DHHS budget.

The proposal includes eligibility changes for MaineCare, a low-income senior citizen prescription drug program, the state’s share of funding for Head Start programs and other changes.

Maine Can Do Better, a statewide coalition of advocacy groups including Engage Maine, Maine Equal Justice Partners, the Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Fund for a Healthy Maine, Planned Parenthood for Northern New England and the National Association of Social Workers Maine, organized the corridor rally Tuesday.

Ben Dudley, the executive director of Engage Maine, called the budget cuts “indefensible.”

“This is not the Maine we believe in,” Dudley said.

State Rep. Peggy Rotundo said the process Tuesday would involve the bill bouncing back and forth between the bodies starting with the Senate.

Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said she was heartened to see the large number of protesters.

“People are really starting to understand how irresponsible and dangerous this budget is,” Rotundo said.

As many as 10 amendments to the bill were expected to be voted on in the Senate. Rotundo didn’t anticipate the House would have its first debate on the measure until the afternoon.

The Senate promptly tabled the measure and was awaiting the printing and distribution of the proposed amendments as of 11:30 a.m.

To see more from the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

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