AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage finds parts of the negotiated budget deal “unacceptable,” his spokeswoman said today, but she stopped short of saying whether the governor would veto the document.

“We do know a significant piece of this bill is unacceptable to him,” said spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. “There are not the structural changes needed to fix this welfare system.”

Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee voted unanimously early this morning to approve an estimated $140 million budget to close an immediate shortfall at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Today, lawmakers on both sides said they are awaiting more details on the plan, but leaders said they believe they can get the two-thirds majority vote necessary to pass the budget. When they arrived at their desks today, they received a one-page letter from LePage. As he did in his State of the State address, he said Mainers earn less than workers in other states, yet spending on “welfare benefits” is above the national average.

“I ask all of you, where is the outrage?” he wrote. “Maine’s Medicaid program has grown at an unsustainable rate, and spending is out of control.”

The budget, which is expected to face House and Senate votes next week, is a mix of cuts and transfers. Of the $140 million, $59 million comes from borrowing money from the next fiscal year to the current one; $20 million comes from Dirigo Health and hospitals; $11 million comes from freezing enrollment and eventually phasing out health insurance for childless adults; and $11 million comes from collecting overpayments to MaineCare providers.

Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature said today no one is fully happy with the compromise, but both sides got some of what they wanted.

“It pays the bills,” said Appropriations Chairman Sen. Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport. “It balances this budget. It has ongoing structural reform in MaineCare programs that’s significant.”

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said the committee made significant changes to what LePage proposed.

“We landed in a unanimous place that I believe is a good product,” she said.


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