We should thank Gov. Paul LePage for finally setting the record straight.

His proposal to fill a $221 million shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services budget is not an attempt to balance the books or to preserve the social safety net for the people who really need it.

The governor made clear in his press conference on Monday that he instead wants to fight an ideological battle about who deserves help from the state to pay for their health care, and money is beside the point.

How else should we interpret LePage’s veto threat for a bipartisan compromise proposal that is still under construction?

Without seeing the final version of what emerges from the Appropriations Committee after countless hours of hard work by legislators of both parties, the governor said it’s not good enough and accused the lawmakers of “abdicating their responsibility.”

LePage said he will veto any bill that does not eliminate childless adults (known as noncategoricals) from the MaineCare program, even if the same spending results can be achieved elsewhere.

So even if the lawmakers can find a way to save the $22 million that full elimination of the noncategoricals would achieve, he is not interested.

That means this is not about money for the governor, but something else. It means that he wants to end state assistance in health care as a matter of policy.

Which at least makes more sense than his original argument, which was that Maine cannot afford to pay for health insurance for this group of its residents.

The governor didn’t explain how we can afford increased use of uncompensated care in hospital emergency rooms or how property taxpayers would be able to pick up the slack when municipalities have to take on services that previously have been funded by the state. He just behaved as if the needs would go away when the state-funded health insurance disappeared.

The governor’s statements put Republican lawmakers in an awkward position. They can try to balance the budget, or they can follow LePage’s lead and fight over ideology.

The governor’s outbursts might not help the legislative process work, but at least they makes clear what the fight is really about.

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