AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine’s governor says if a court tells him he must expand Medicaid without budgeted state funding, he’d go to jail before putting Maine in “red ink.”

Gov. Paul LePage made the remark Tuesday during a call-in on WVOM-FM.

Nearly three out of five voters last fall voted to expand Medicaid to 80,000 Mainers by July 2.

The governor is fighting a court order requiring him to submit paperwork for Maine to receive federal funding. He successfully vetoed a bill to fund Maine’s expansion costs with surplus and tobacco settlement funds.

The bill provided state funding that would be supplemented by more than $500 million in federal funds to expand Medicaid to between 70,000 and 80,000 more Mainers. Supporters say costs to the state would be less than $50 million once the expansion is fully implemented, but opponents contend the cost could be twice that. LePage and his allies have demanded that the Legislature provide a “sustainable” funding mechanism for the expansion.

LePage said Tuesday the Legislature has spoken by not funding Medicaid expansion. Advocates say Maine has enough money to cover costs for a year.



The Maine House sustained LePage’s veto of a funding bill for Medicaid expansion Monday, handing the Republican another victory in his long campaign to stifle expansion of the program to another 70,000 Mainers.

LePage has vetoed Medicaid expansion seven times during his two terms.

LePage had said in his veto message to the Legislature that the state needed to come up with a long-term way to fund the expansion and not depend on one-time gimmicks. The bill he vetoed would have funded expansion with surplus revenue and money from the state’s tobacco settlement fund. In his message, LePage also criticized those who supported the ballot measure for not writing a funding method into the citizen-backed law.

However, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court could alter the expansion picture next week, when it hears arguments in a challenge brought by advocates who want to force the governor to file an expansion plan with the federal government.

Conservative Republicans stood with the governor in Monday’s 85-58 vote, which fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn his veto of a bill allotting $60 million to help fund a law that 59 percent of voters approved at referendum in 2017.

The governor’s obligation to move forward with expansion is the focus of the hearing before the Supreme Judicial Court next week. Justices will take up a lawsuit that pits advocates for expansion against the administration, which has argued that it cannot implement the law without funding approved by the Legislature.

It remains uncertain whether the state’s highest court will force LePage to file a plan for expansion with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as prescribed for under the Affordable Care Act.

LePage said lawmakers can’t fund expansion with new taxes. He’s now suggesting hospital taxes could cover expansion.

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