A bitter war of words broke out Sunday between Maine's Republican Gov. Paul LePage and state Democratic senators after he was denied a chance to speak about a fast-approaching budget deadline.
LePage hoped to address the Senate's budget-writing committee, which faces a June 10th deadline to get Maine's budget hammered out before the Department of Health and Human Services runs out of funds for payments to care providers.
But Sen. Dawn Hill, chairwoman of the committee, snubbed LePage, telling him he wasn't welcome to say his peace, the Bangor Daily News reports
. And she hinted he was playing politics.
"I think there are a lot of politics around this committee," Hill said as LePage cooled his heels Sunday during a weekend meeting of the panel. "I think what happened here today was good and we ended on a very good note."
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LePage shot back: “Are you saying that the governor of the state of Maine is not welcome to address the Appropriations Committee?”
"We hadn’t expected you, and what we had to accomplish was accomplished," Hill answered. "It’s best to end it on a high note, and I think that’s where we were."
"Outside this committee won’t happen unless I have a way to speak" LePage bristled. "I want to get on the record, and this committee is not allowing it. The people of the state of Maine are being played for patsies."
The terse back-and-forth came after the Senate members quizzed Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew about a letter she wrote to LePage telling him her agency would be unable to pay its bills after June 10, just 20 days before the end of state's fiscal year.
LePage has been fighting with Democrats over the terms of the budget. Last week, Democrats voted to link the repayment of the state’s $484 million debt to its hospitals to an expansion of Medicaid. But that's unacceptable to LePage and GOP legislators.
The governor has proposed $35 million for Department of Health and Human Services so it can meet its obligations.
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