One of the biggest rebukes to the GOP and Trumpism in last night’s election occurred in Maine, where people overwhelmingly voted for a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid.
This is the first time any state has expanded Medicaid through a referendum and it bodes well for other states that are looking to put the issue on their ballots in 2018.
It was also a 200,000-person-strong middle finger to Maine’s Governor Paul LePage, who had vetoed Medicaid expansion in the state after the state legislature passed it five times. Yet, despite this resounding rebuke, LePage released a statement this morning affirming that he will continue to be a complete asshole and work against the will of the people in his state:
Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget. Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.
LePage doesn’t have much wiggle room here, however. As a spokesman for Mainers for Health Care, a group behind the initiative, told Talking Points Memo:
Under the state constitution, 45 days after the legislature reconvenes, Medicaid expansion will become the law of the state. According to the statute, the Department of Health and Human Services has 90 days after that to submit an implementation plan to the federal government, and the implementation itself will take place in mid-August of 2018.
It’s true that Maine doesn’t have any restrictions around legislative tampering, which means that the state legislature itself could repeal or amend the initiative, as they did with 2016 ballot initiatives like the minimum wage. But in this case, it’s very unlikely that would happen, since legislators voted to expand Medicaid five times already.
While the initiative will become law, LePage might be able to slow down enforcement through administrative or budgetary maneuvers. As Josh Altic, project director at Ballotpedia, told Splinter, “The big question mark is, will LePage enforce it, how soon, how many administrative delays will he put in place, and by the time it settles, will federal government providing the funds that they previously provided under Medicaid expansion?”
But if LePage does go down this lane, he will almost certainly face a lawsuit. As the Mainers for Health Care spokesperson told TPM, “If the governor isn’t willing to follow the law, we will take it to the courts if necessary.”