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Hello. This is your Governor, Paul LePage.

The $221 million dollar debate at the State House has drawn splashy headlines in recent days.

Media reports play up that I have threatened to veto the budget and that there’s going to be a showdown in Augusta.

However, albeit these headlines grab peoples’ attention, the real focus should be on the facts and the million dollar question is not what is best to win a re-election, but what is best for Maine people?

Two months ago my Administration warned Legislators that the State was fast approaching a massive deficit. My Administration, in particular Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and her staff, has accommodated every request of the legislature being as transparent as possible throughout this process.

Unfortunately, many are losing focus as to why we are at a crossroads.

Since 2002, enrollment in Maine's welfare programs has risen 78 percent, but in that same time Maine's population has only risen 7 percent.

Welfare spending has dramatically increased by $1 billion dollars in the last decade, a 45 percent increase. The welfare program has grown out-of-control.

Maine has roughly twice as many people on welfare than students in public schools

Only 15 states cover individuals ages 19 and 20 just because of their age – 35 states do not.

There are reasonable solutions to the fiscal crisis Maine faces.

We must restructure eligibility, re-design benefits and adopt payment reform which addresses those structural problems and will put Maine’s welfare programs on a path to financial sustainability.

If the necessary changes are not made, we will be back here in November or December looking for more money to pay the bills.

It is unfair that Maine people who earn some of the lowest wages in the country are forced to pay above the national average welfare costs. We can have a strong safety net for our most vulnerable, but we must be able to afford it. Maine taxpayers are footing the bill for this government-run health care coverage program and they deserve better.

What is now on the table as solutions are short-term fixes that ignore out-of-control welfare spending. I do not support a budget that is built upon one-time savings, exaggerated savings and tax increases and neither should Maine people.

This past week, members of the Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a tax. It is a tax on paid insurance claims that supports the state’s Dirigo Health insurance program. Last year, legislators agreed to lower the current rate of $1.87 to $1.64. That decrease saves Maine people nearly $5 million dollars. Instead of letting the rate drop, Mainers will now be forced to continue to pay the higher tax.

Committee members are even exaggerating the numbers to achieve savings. Commissioner Mayhew has said that there is a potential savings of approximately $7 million dollars from overpayments to providers due to errors in calculating the cost of care. Legislators have decided to book $11 million in savings, which is not accurate.

Additionally, there are millions of dollars in one-time savings being taken away from various departments. One-time savings only bring us a few months down the road. And when the bills start coming in again and we can’t pay them – rest assured we’ll be back here again trying to find money to pay for Maine’s welfare program. No matter how you break it down these are not long-term solutions that benefit Mainers.

Maine people are smart and have caught on to the political games in Augusta. In November, they’ll be able to cast their votes and tell us if they want Maine to continue as a welfare state or if they want a state which is self-sufficient and encourages self-dependency.

At the end of the day, 1 plus 1 still equals 2 and the question remains who has the courage to do what’s right for Maine people?

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