The people who work so hard to take care of adult family members with special needs got a welcome piece of good news last week when a judge signed an agreement that forces the state to find funding for key support services for autistic and developmentally disabled Mainers.

Gov. Paul LePage has been a vocal supporter of eliminating the years-long waiting lists for these services, and administration officials are touting the settlement as a milestone toward this objective. But the governor’s actions haven’t always lived up to his words: This spring he vetoed a budget bill providing MaineCare funding for developmentally disabled adults, and the proposal survived only because legislators overwhelmingly overturned his veto.

Lawmakers have shown that they’re ready and able to reach across the aisle when an issue unites them — and for the sake of vulnerable Mainers, elected officials should look for more opportunities to work together during the next session.

Developmentally disabled Maine residents have been in the spotlight under LePage. He’s repeatedly said that the state shouldn’t expand MaineCare coverage for so-called “able-bodied” low-income residents when it can’t provide funding for already eligible people who are waiting for services.

The problem was addressed by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, which called for support-services funds to be allocated starting in June 2015 — the last month of the current fiscal year — in order to ensure that they’d be included in the next fiscal year’s budget.

The panel’s $32 million budget proposal, including the support services, easily passed the Legislature and was supported over the veto of the governor, who said he couldn’t back a spending plan “that uses gimmicks to keep it balanced.”

Fast forward to last week, when the settlement was signed, and the LePage administration never mentioned the Legislature’s work on behalf of the developmentally disabled. Instead, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said, “(The governor’s) efforts and those of the department to improve the services and supports for these vulnerable Mainers well preceded this lawsuit and will remain a significant focus.”

But this rhetoric won’t help the families who are paying out of pocket for services for the developmentally disabled, or who’ve had to quit their jobs to stay home and care for their loved ones.

Maine lawmakers are the ones who have stepped up, and we hope the next Legislature does the same.


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