AUGUSTA — Lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee learned Monday that two 2012 laws designed to provide a better accounting of spending within a $54 million state health program have never been implemented.

The revelation was made during a review of funding allocations within the Fund for a Healthy Maine, a program created in 1999 to receive and disburse Maine’s share of annual payments from the 1998 Landmark Master Tobacco Settlement Case. The Fund for a Healthy Maine was designed to improve health through a variety of programs, including tobacco cessation and prevention.

It has also been the focus of frequent partisan wrangling over whether the program is effective or whether tobacco settlement money would be better spent on something else. Gov. Paul LePage has moved to eliminate funding for the program in several budget proposals, but state lawmakers have repeatedly reinstated it. This month, several Republican lawmakers called for a formal review of the program by the Legislature’s watchdog agency to get a better handle how money is being spent.

That review, requested by Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, and Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, will be considered by the Government Oversight Committee in October. However, in 2011 the same committee proposed and got enacted several changes designed to improve oversight and accounting of money flowing through the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

Eight recommendations came from the Legislature’s watchdog agency, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, which is directed by the oversight committee. All eight recommendations were passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2012, but at least two were never implemented.

One of the laws required state agencies, contractors and vendors receiving funding from the program to track, detail and justify how the money is spent. The law required the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to compile the reports and provide them to the Legislature, which has the final say over funding for the program. That department is overseen by the LePage administration and the governor appoints the agency’s commissioner, currently Richard Rosen.

Rosen’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee are likely to pursue an explanation from the department.

“I think we need to know why some things were never implemented,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, adding that the funding review from the 2012 law may help answer questions posed by Timberlake and Mason.

State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, also requested more detail about how programs funded by the Fund for a Healthy Maine were spending money. According to the Legislature’s budget office, there are over two dozen state agencies that receive money from the program. However, it’s unclear how those agencies, or contractors and vendors, are spending the funds. In many instances, the programs are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, which hires contractors or vendors.

Anna Broome, the health committee’s legal analyst, said she requested details about the contracts from DHHS, but none were provided for Monday’s meeting.

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, in a statement to the Press Herald, said that “DHHS staff have full-time jobs focused on managing the operations of this agency, evaluating the effectiveness of programs and services, and ensuring accountability for the use of all funds administered by the state.”

She added, “State government needs fewer studies and meetings and more action by lawmakers in eliminating wasteful spending and reprioritizing resources.”

Mayhew also reiterated the LePage administration’s position that the Fund for a Healthy Maine is ineffective and that “tobacco cessation and prevention programs should be delivered through primary care physicians.”

David Sorensen, a spokesman for DHHS, could not fully explain why MaineCare allocations from the program skyrocketed between 2014 and 2015. In 2008-2009, MaineCare allocations represented approximately 12 percent of all allocations from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. It’s now over 50 percent, according to data from the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office.

Public health advocates have repeatedly expressed frustration with the LePage administration’s handling of the Fund for a Healthy Maine and accused it of raiding the fund for other policy initiatives and programs.

The committee is expected to continue its discussion of the fund in October.

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