LePage makes case for hospital debt repayment plan

5:37 PM, Mar 8, 2013   |    comments
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AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor LePage is not backing down from his threat to veto every bill until the Legislature passes a plan to pay back hospital debt.

He repeated that ultimatum, and made the case for his emergency legislation, LD 239, during a stop in the Twin Cities Friday.

With Roopers Liquor Store in Auburn as the backdrop, Gov. LePage explained how restructuring the state's liquor business can create the revenue to finance bonds for debt repayment.

His plan would create a bidding process for a private company to run the state's liquor business.

According to the Gerry Reid, Director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, the plan could create $45 milllion in revenue, as well as increase profit margins for liquor retailers.

"Everybody benefits, the state will benefit, and a lot of revenue and income will remain in the state," said Reid.

Gov. LePage said some of that money would finance revenue bonds, which would receive federal matching funds, and begin to pay back Maine hospitals.

The problem, he said, is that Democrats don't want to do it.

"I've been trying to get this bill paid for three years, and [Democrats] simply don't want to pay it," said Gov. LePage.

"Quite frankly, I don't care what they tell you, they have no intentions of paying this bill."

But according to State Senator John Cleveland, D-Auburn, both parties want to pay the state's bills. The issue, he said, is the legality of the proposal.

"I spoke with the Attorney General three days ago, and asked her specifically, 'Can we issue bonds, including revenue bonds, to pay the debt?' She said no," said Sen. Cleveland.

"If it's constitutional, then I'm happy to consider supporting it," he said. "If it's not constitutional, then we're heading down a dead end road."

After meeting with liquor retailers and restaurant owners in Auburn, Gov. LePage visited Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

CMMC President Laird Covey said he supports the Governor's plan, and says it's the first time he's seen such strong leadership on the issue.

The state owes $51 million to CMMC. Covey said that money could help the hospital upgrade an outdated maternity unit and avoid potential layoffs.


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