Democratic legislative leaders said Friday that they expect a $100 million budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services, a gap that would further complicate lawmakers’ attempts to draft a supplemental state budget before adjourning in April.
Lawmakers are preparing for budget work that, at this point, they will have to do without guidance from Gov. Paul LePage. The governor has refused to submit a spending plan, saying the Legislature enacted an unbalanced budget last year when it rejected his original proposal.
Details of the shortfall in the DHHS are sketchy. Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, acknowledged Friday that the news was passed on to them through Republican leaders and the governor.
Nonetheless, Jackson, the Senate majority leader, said the shortfall is further evidence that LePage should participate in the budget process. Berry said leaders on the Legislature’s budget committee requested information from state agencies in December so the committee could begin crafting its own budget.
The administration has not submitted any information.
LePage sent a letter to Democratic leaders in December, acknowledging the committee’s request for information by Jan. 3 but saying the agencies will fulfill the request when they can.
Berry said it was another example of poor leadership by the governor, who he said has allowed mismanagement in the DHHS and done little to address any of the problems. He said the Legislature and the governor have historically worked together on budgets, but LePage “is refusing to do his part” and has withheld information in some instances.
“We can’t do it alone,” Jackson said. “Today, we call on the governor to take personal responsibility to help fix our state’s budget problems. The governor fashions himself a businessman, but let me tell ya, what CEO would have a $100 million shortfall and just sit on his hands?”
Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, the Senate majority leader, said in a prepared statement, “It’s no surprise that the Democrat majority has no idea of what do about the budget when it has no proposal to criticize.”
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