AUGUSTA – Senate Democrats who voted Thursday night to reject a plan to close a budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services “resorted to obstruction,” Gov. Paul LePage said Friday.

The bill fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed for final passage when 12 Democrats in the 35-member Senate voted against it late Thursday night. The proposal could come up for more votes as soon as Tuesday.

“While there has been some progress, there is still much work to do and Thursday evening’s actions by most Senate Democrats show their unwillingness to reach a solution,” LePage said in a prepared statement released Friday. “Their strategy to solve this $221 million shortfall is still unclear after 74 days since I’ve presented this plan. Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins has shown a willingness to work with the majority, unlike others in the caucus who resorted to obstruction.”

Hobbins, Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, and Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, were the only Democrats in the Senate who supported the bill. In the House, more than two dozen Democrats supported it.

Other Senate Democrats said Thursday that they continue to have concerns about the number of people who would be affected by the cuts proposed to MaineCare, and that they objected to the way an amendment was crafted to win support in the House.

The budget to address a shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30 would shift more than $60 million from the 2012-13 fiscal year to this one, prohibit new enrollment in the MaineCare health insurance program for adults without children, and discontinue MaineCare health insurance for 14,000 parents.

Lawmakers still must deal with an $84 million shortfall in the DHHS budget for 2012-13.

On Friday, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said he and others were working to find alternatives to the proposal that was rejected Thursday.

“It is not helpful for the governor to call us obstructionists,” he said in a prepared statement. “We believe solutions are attainable and we are here today working on trying to make this a better deal for the people of Maine. We are obligated to take a balanced approach that will take care of the needs of Maine people — not a plan that is short-sighted with long term consequences.”

House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said Senate Democrats had several opportunities to participate in budget negotiations, and the delay forced by Thursday’s vote was “political gamesmanship.”

“If they wanted a seat at the table, they should have pulled up a chair,” he said in a statement.

LePage thanked Republicans and House Democrats for supporting the budget-balancing plan. The House voted 109-27 in favor of the measure.

“Mainers understand we can no longer afford to be all things to all people,” LePage said. “We have a choice. We can continue to be a welfare state or we can revive the American Dream.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan M. Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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