AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers are preparing for a 2018 session where Medicaid expansion and marijuana legalization are expected to take center stage.
The Legislature must figure out how to pay for Medicaid’s eventual $54 million expansion. The sale of recreational marijuana is also set to become legal Feb. 1, even though lawmakers failed this year to put a licensing and regulatory structure in place.
Next year will be Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s last full year in office, and he is continuing to chastise lawmakers for his biggest pet peeve: fiscal irresponsibility and laziness. He’s threatened to not implement Medicaid expansion and recreational marijuana sales unless lawmakers fulfill his conditions.
“Many politicians conveniently forget that the last time Maine expanded Medicaid, it blew holes in the budget every year,” LePage said in a recent radio address. “The Legislature lurched from crisis to crisis and scrambled to find one-time gimmicks to fund the budget. We cannot let the past repeat itself.”
The session begins in January.
The Legislature must figure out how to pay for Medicaid expansion’s price tag that’s estimated to grow to $54 million after projected savings in 2021.
Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by public vote in November, and up to 90,000 citizens are expected to benefit.
Credit rating agency Moody’s Investor Service recently released a report that said the move “may increase budget pressure for the state.” LePage has said he won’t implement the voter-approved expansion until it’s fully funded by the state Legislature without tax increases, budgetary gimmicks or rainy day fund raids.
LePage said he’s coming up with his spending cuts to pay for Medicaid expansion but called it a “big reach.”
Maine Center for Economic Policy policy analyst James Myall said lawmakers still have to