AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Monday that Maine ended the 2017-18 fiscal year with a budget surplus of $175.8 million, and credited his administration’s sound fiscal management for keeping the state in the black.

LePage said $74.6 million of the surplus has been allocated to the state’s next two-year budget and $76.2 million will go to the state’s so-called “rainy day” or budget stabilization account. Another $19 million was sent to an account aimed at reducing Maine’s income tax rate.

“Our philosophy is simple: Mainers expect a government that can live within its means,” LePage said in a statement. “Today’s news reinforces the success of that philosophy and will provide my successor with the ability to focus on making investments in the future of our state rather than filling budget gaps.”

The state’s rainy day fund now has a record balance of $272.9 million, more than six times the balance in 2012, according to LePage’s finance commissioner, Alec Porteous.

“Having this money in the bank provides an important backstop for sustained government operations in the event of a financial downturn,” he said.

State Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, joined LePage in touting the surplus as proof that fiscally conservative policies were working.

“It is clear that electing Republicans has put the state on stronger financial footing and the people of Maine are better off for it,” Thibodeau said.

Fredette also warned about overspending.

“Now is not the time to go on another spending spree,” he said. “This surplus should either be given back to the taxpayers or go directly into Maine’s rainy day fund.”

But Democratic leaders in Augusta noted the state still has unpaid obligations, such as providing funding for the voter-approved expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare.

House Speaker Sara Gideon attributed much of the state’s financial health to budgets largely crafted by the Legislature and enacted over LePage’s vetoes.

“Because our revenue continues to exceed projections, we can finally focus on long-term solutions that strengthen middle class families, while creating an environment that supports good paying jobs and a strong economy,” Gideon said. “The state has achieved these results in spite of a challenging and unpredictable environment created by (the LePage) Administration.”

Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, the House chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, said the state clearly now has the resources to move forward with the Medicaid expansion, which is expected to cost the state $50 million to $100 million a year. Expansion would draw down nearly $500 million in federal funding and provide health care coverage to an additional 70,000 low-income Mainers.

Gattine said the increase in revenue presents an opportunity to address “the vital needs of Maine families.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: thisdog

filed under: