Gov. LePage says he is “absolutely confident” that he can get the federal waivers needed to make his proposed human services cuts legal under federal law, but we hope the Legislature requires more than the governor’s say-so.

To date, no federal official has publicly expressed encouragement for the plan to deny MaineCare coverage to 65,000 people without incurring the penalties called for in the Affordable Care Act for states that cut their programs from 2010 levels. LePage says that the law doesn’t give him the flexibility he needs to manage state finances, and says he’ll ask for waivers.

LePage said he has talked with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about it, and he indicated that he thought she would not let Maine “go broke.”

Later, LePage’s spokeswoman clarified that the governor met Sebelius in February and May, long before the eruption of what he has described as a fiscal crisis in the state Department of Health and Human Services, so it could not have been Maine’s current situation that he and the secretary discussed.

So far, most federal officials, including three of the four members of the state’s congressional delegation, have been silent about the likelihood of Maine’s receiving a waiver.

The other member, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, the 1st District Democrat, said it would be a long shot.

“It will be more difficult … than the governor is suggesting,” Pingree said. “I don’t think it is a slam-dunk that the state, no matter what action the Legislature takes … will automatically get approval for waivers.”

The governor is critical of legislators who ask too many questions, but this is one that ought to be answered before the Legislature votes on his proposal. If his fix for a fiscal crisis ends up putting Maine on the hook for federal penalties, it’s no fix at all. Legislators should be absolutely certain that Maine would get a waiver before even considering such a strategy.

Very little of the governor’s plan to tear apart the health care safety net for the poor appears to be based on any careful planning. That doesn’t give us much confidence in his assurance that his plan would fly under federal law, and Maine legislators should not even consider it until they are convinced that it would.