LePage Clashes With Democrats - Governor Wants To Use Liquor Profits To Pay Hospital Debt
Governor Paul LePage's plan for a special legislative session is in question following a conversation between the Republican governor and the House Democratic leader.
House Minority Leader Emily Cain says LePage told her by phone he did not plan on calling the legislature back into session, and he would adress his plans in January.
TV-5 News has now learned part of what LePage is hoping to get accomplished.
According to highly placed sources in the State House, if the governor had decided and was able to call lawmakers back for a special session, he's hoping to use the money from the state's liquor contract to help pay down the debt owed by the state to Maine's hospitals.
Sources tell TV-5 the deal is contingent on hospitals agreeing to drop a provision in the law requiring state approval for certain hospital expansion projects. If LePage gets his way, hospitals would no longer need a Certificate of Need to perform certain expansions or developments. According to the Maine Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, a Certificate of Need reviews and recommends either approval or denial of projects undertaken by health care facilities or other covered providers. In Maine, CON review is required for the expansion or development of health care services or facilities that either cost more than a threshold amount, indexed each year for inflation, or proposes a substantial reduction in capacity for certain types of providers.
Back in 2004, the state signed a 10-year deal with the Maine Beverage Commission that netted the state $125-million up front, money they used to balance the budget at the time. Some critics of the deal say it may have cost the state as much as $100 million in lost revenue over the life of the deal.
According to the current agreement, all liquor sold in Maine must pass through Maine Beverage Company's Augusta warehouse. The five member Liquor and Lottery Commission decides how much to charge for liquor sold in Maine. That price is determined using a certain set of criteria.
The state's liquor contract is scheduled to be renegotiated next year, with the state getting a larger piece of the lucrative liquor pie this time around.
According to sources, that's money LePage would like to use to pay down the hospital debt. According to sources, the state debt to hospitals was $125-million in January, but is much higher now. The debt comes from hospitals continuing to serve Medicaid patients without being fully reimbursed by the state.
Governor LePage was reportedly still deciding whether to call the special session or take up the matter in January during the regularly scheduled session. Part of that decision was contingent on the constitutionality of the governor calling the special session. LePage spokesperson Adrienne Bennett would neither confirm or deny what the governor's plan is. She did say the administration is waiting to hear from the Attorney General's office before deciding when and how to proceed.
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Story)