Lawmakers in both the House and Senate voted along party lines yesterday to approve a revised state budget that reduces funding for Head Start programs and eliminates MaineCare benefits for more than 20,000 people. Gov. Paul LePage signed the budget this morning.
The budget talks, which drew protesters to the State House, divided legislators along party lines: the Senate passed the budget 19-14 and the House passed it 75-61, according to MaineToday Media. Besides cutting MaineCare coverage for 19- and 20-year-olds, the budget cuts funding for early-childcare programs for low-income Mainers by $2 million and reduces prescription drug aid for seniors. It also trims the number of parents who can receive MaineCare by about 14,500.
Republicans said the cuts were necessary to deal with an $83 million shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services budget through June 2013, and that the MaineCare changes put the state more on par with per-person health coverage in other states. But Democrats said the changes failed to address the negative impacts to the populations served by the programs, according to the paper.
Lawmakers will meet this week to finish other business in the legislative session, including $95 million in bond proposals.