Gov. Paul LePage sent a letter Friday to legislative leaders urging them to convene a special session before the month ends, but he did not call a session himself, which is within his authority.

In his letter, LePage said lawmakers need to address four bills that he says were not properly funded when they were passed during the most recent session, which adjourned in April.

“In the last session, the Legislature passed several bills that were improperly funded, apparently in an effort to claim that it didn’t increase government spending,” the governor wrote in the letter. “The fact is, the Legislature did increase spending because it mandated that the Executive Branch use money already appropriated for other programs to pay for the bills you passed.”

LePage has threatened to call a special session during recent town hall meetings he has held across Maine.

Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland said he sees no need to bring lawmakers back.

“The bills in question are funded. Period. The Executive Branch doesn’t have to like the way the bills are funded, but Gov. LePage is obligated to execute the laws passed by the Legislature,” Alfond said Friday in a statement. “That is the way the powers are separated by the Maine Constitution. I cannot see why 186 lawmakers should return to Augusta – at a cost of $43,000 per day – just because Gov. LePage doesn’t want to do his job.”

The bills in questions, according to LePage’s office, are:

  • L.D. 1465, which requires that the Department of Health and Human Services contract with a third-party consultant to conduct a rate study of ambulance services and assess the feasibility of reimbursing for community paramedicine services.
  • L.D. 1552, an act to reduce morbidity and mortality related to injected drugs. LePage said the bill had a fiscal note of $75,000, but the Legislature stripped the funding.
  • L.D. 1614, which provides funding for county jails. LePage said his office identified a source of funding for the bill but only if the Legislature lifted the property tax cap that restricts how much counties can raise from municipalities. The governor said the Legislature took the money but cut the language to lift the property tax cap.
  • L.D. 1645, an act to address employee recruitment and retention issues at state mental health institutions. LePage said funding for that bill depletes the state’s fund for wage increases and “inhibits the Executive Branch’s ability to negotiate in good faith during the next round of collective bargaining with all unionized state employees.”

“You may think these issues do not constitute enough of an ’emergency’ to merit a special session, but I disagree,” the governor wrote. “The Maine people deserve to know where their tax dollars are spent and that they are spent in a fiscally prudent way. By burying new spending with obfuscation and gimmicks, we are doing the taxpayer an injustice.”

House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport sent a statement immediately after the governor’s news release came out, suggesting House Republicans were already aware of the plan.

“The issues raised by the Governor in regard to the proper funding of these initiatives should be addressed by the Legislature,” Fredette said. “If the funding sources identified in these bills are no longer viable, we should work with the administration to properly fund these initiatives.”

The Maine Constitution authorizes the governor to call legislators back for an “extraordinary occasion,” although that term is not defined. LePage last did so in 2011 to address legislative redistricting.

House and Senate leaders also have the option of convening a special session. That decision would have to come from House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, – and with the consent of a majority of lawmakers.

Neither leader has expressed any interest in returning.

“We will not be coming back into session,” Eves said in a statement Friday. “I refuse to waste taxpayer dollars to participate in the governor’s election-year political theatre. … There is nothing extraordinary about Governor LePage refusing to work with the Legislature and then creating problems that do not exist.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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