Maine lawmakers grapple with Medicaid expansion, other costs

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers facing big budget items this year like voter-approved Medicaid expansion must also figure out the future of funding for a minimum security prison and care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Lawmakers passed a two-year, $7.1 billion budget last summer that funded some programs for just one fiscal year. They’re now considering whether to shell out another year’s worth of funding for such programs as they face Medicaid expansion to the poor that could ultimately cost $54 million.

The state may also have to return $51 million in federal funding already spent on a state psychiatric hospital.


Republican Representative William Tuell is sponsoring a bill that would provide about $5.5 million to fund the minimum security Downeast Correctional Facility in Washington County beyond June. The small prison has long been on the chopping block, but Tuell argues closing it will strain the state’s criminal justice system.

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The two-year budget also included $13.5 million for a year of funding for rate increases for home-based and community-based care for those with intellectual disabilities or autism. Lawmakers are set to consider Democratic Representative Erin Herbig’s bill calling for two full years of funding.

Republican Governor Paul LePage recently said that he does not intend to submit a supplemental budget calling for additional funding.

‘‘As I have said on many occasions in the past, I believe in the biennial budget process; state government should live within its means for the enacted biennial budget period,’’ he wrote in a Nov. 13 letter to his administration.

His office didn’t respond to a request for additional comment Tuesday.