AUGUSTA — Democratic legislators want a “sugar daddy” to give the state $200 million in an upfront payment for Maine’s next wholesale liquor contract, Gov. Paul LePage said in a television interview Wednesday.
In the interview on WPFO’s “Good Day Maine,” the Republican governor used strong language to highlight his differences with Democrats about how funds from the state’s wholesale liquor contract should be used to pay off $484 million in debt to Maine hospitals.
He said the Democrats’ plan, which was announced in detail just before a legislative hearing on Monday, was rushed, was put together shoddily and doesn’t make sense.
“They’re looking for a sugar daddy to give them $200 million and then work for nothing for 10 years, and I don’t think that’s going to work,” he said.
LePage said he hasn’t seen any bills from the Legislature because “they haven’t done anything.” However, six minor bills already are waiting for LePage’s signature, all passed by the Legislature on March 7.
“We need our chief executive to step up, sign the bills we’ve sent him and get the people’s work done,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe in a prepared statement. “We’ve sent him straightforward bipartisan bills that make improvements in important areas like agriculture, workforce development, fisheries management and public health.”
The governor also said he will stick to a previous pledge to veto all bills that come to him from the Legislature until it approves a hospital payment deal.
The governor said that includes an emergency bill that would allow bars to open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Sunday this year.
Dick Grotton, CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association, has told the Portland Press Herald that he’s astonished that politics are being played with the bill.
LePage stood firm when asked whether he would veto it.
“Yes, I would veto that bill,” he said. “If they’re going to send that kind of garbage to me before they send legitimate legislation, then bad bills need to be vetoed.”
LePage also addressed the possibility of Medicaid expansion as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.
The administration has signaled willingness to consider expansion, although LePage voiced staunch opposition to it late last year.
Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, said Monday that the office will initiate talks with the federal government to look at Medicaid expansion.
But LePage said he needs to be sure that Maine won’t be stuck with a larger Medicaid program that it will have to pay for in the future, without federal help.
“I will get onto Medicaid expansion if I have assurances that the state has flexibility, and it has the availability of monies to pay for the program,” he said. “I need to have assurance that the federal government’s going to be serious about paying long-term Medicaid costs.”
Michael Shepherd — 620-7015