AUGUSTA — Two legislative committees began taking testimony today on Gov. Paul LePage’s supplemental budget that seeks to close a projected $221 million hole at the Department of Health and Human Services.

LePage is proposing to close the gap by ending Medicaid coverage for 65,000 Mainers, including the poor, the elderly and children. Through the years, the program has grown beyond what the state can afford to support, LePage has said.

As of 10:45 a.m., 133 people had signed up to testify on the cuts. Meanwhile, several hundred people gathered in the Hall of Flags for a rally to oppose the cuts, calling them shortsighted and hurtful to the most vulnerable in Maine.

They held signs that said “Gov. LePage: Who’s worth saving?” and “Budgets are Moral Documents.”

By 2 p.m., More than 60 people had testified. Dan Nichols, 58, of Portland, suffers from multiple sclerosis and lives in the Portland Center for Assisted Living. He uses a wheelchair to get around and said he needs the help he gets at the facility.

“I feel like instead of cutting off staff at the facility, they should be canonized,” he said. “They are all saints.”

The Rev. Jill Job Saxby, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, said that a measure of society is how well the “most vulnerable are faring.”

“We believe our priority as a society must be to ensure that basic human needs are met, including food security, housing and health care, in good economic times and bad,” she said.

House Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms Normand Arbour said it was possible that not all who signed up today would be able to testify. Lawmakers have said they will end the day no later than 9:30 p.m.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Malone are scheduled to testify sometime this afternoon. Testimony on the budget will also continue Thursday and Friday.

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the administration knows the cuts are difficult.

“This is an extremely difficult day for all of us,” she said.

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