AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — With the threat of a veto looming, the Maine Senate nevertheless gave final approval Thursday to a bill to pay off a $484 million debt to Maine hospitals while expanding Medicaid to tens of thousands of uninsured people.
The Senate passed the bill in a 20-15 party-line vote and sent the measure to Gov. Paul LePage, whose objections to it were already well-known. At a public ceremony in the State House, the governor signed a letter explaining his planned veto just minutes after it won Senate approval. He also submitted a new bill to pay the hospital debt, without the Medicaid expansion.
The governor and his fellow Republicans oppose linking repayment of the hospital debt, an issue LePage has championed since his 2010 campaign, to Medicaid expansion, which Republicans say needs further examination.
A veto was so certain that after the Senate vote, Democratic leaders urged Mainers to contact their legislators and ask them to override LePage's action when the bill comes up as expected next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Republican House leader Ken Fredette of Newport introduced a compromise on the issue of Medicaid expansion as GOP leaders said their legislators were united and will uphold the veto.
In making a pitch for an override, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick chided LePage for missing out on a big win by refusing to deal with Democrats.
"In a divided government, you cannot demand all or nothing. Governor Paul LePage had an opportunity to prove to Maine people he could compromise," Eves said. "He failed."