Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 9.21.12

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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker, or Avery Day.

Political Season Now Upon Us

The political season appears to be fully upon us. Races that were of interest only to wonks and political junkies are now being discussed in wider circles. Newspapers are now providing daily coverage of polls and the horse race in Maine and nationally. Stories are being run discussing political strategies and “following the money” in various races. Interest groups have started making endorsements and printing legislative score cards. It is bound to be an interesting year in Maine. Obviously, there is an ongoing Presidential race but there is also a U.S. Senate race, two Congressional races, a same-sex marriage ballot initiative, a handful of bond proposals and the entire Maine Legislature on the ballot this year. Though it is rumored that there has been polling conducted on State legislative races, these are internal polls that will not be shared publicly. It is always difficult to assess these contests, but next Tuesday legislative candidates will file additional campaign financing disclosures. These reports will provide a small glimpse into what is happening in these local races.

Issue of Reductions in MaineCare Enrollment

Still Unresolved In an effort to balance the State budget, the Legislature enacted a proposal to remove up to 36,000 people from MaineCare this legislative session. The ability of the State to carry out this proposal is in question due to requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act. This summer, the State began implementation of this proposal, requesting a State Plan Amendment be approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Because lawmakers assumed $20 million in savings from this proposal that is supposed to be implemented by October 1st, approval of this plan has serious State budget implications.

The LePage Administration requested expedited review of the State Plan Amendment request and the Attorney General even petitioned a federal court to force an expedited review. Last week, this petition was dismissed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision regarding the State’s request may not be made until after October 1st. A delayed approval or a denial of this request would create a hole in the State budget that would likely have to be addressed by the Legislature as soon as it begins its work in January.

Supplemental Budget Looking More and More Likely

As noted above, depending on what happens with the proposal to reduce MaineCare enrollment, a supplemental budget bill may be necessary in January of 2013 to keep Maine’s budget in balance. Even if these assumed savings are implemented as planned, a supplemental budget could still be on the horizon. Just this week, Commissioner Sawin Millett of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services announced that revenues for the current fiscal year are below projections. We are now two months into the current fiscal year and State revenues have failed to meet projections for both of these months. The gap between projections and actual revenues is not large at this point, but it could grow if the current trend continues. Regardless of the size of the gap, the State’s budget is required to be balanced, meaning legislation to account for lower than projected revenues is a strong possibility in January.

Governor LePage Leads China Trade Mission

Last week, Governor LePage led a delegation of Maine businesses and organizations on a trade mission to China. The trip, organized by the Maine International Trade Center, was Governor LePage’s first trade mission. These trips have become a regular practice for Maine’s Governors as a way to increase business for Maine companies and to increase investment in Maine. In all, 13 Maine entities took part in the trip, making various connections in China.