Posted: April 15, 2014 | Front Page, Senator Craven, Senator Jackson

AUGUSTA–In a vote of 20-15 Republican Senators sustained Governor LePage’s veto of a measure that would have prevented the Department of Health and Human Services from renewing contracts with the troubled MaineCare ride brokers.

“For months, people have been left by the side of the road. The contractor that we are spending millions of dollars on continues to fail. We’ve given them every opportunity to clean up their act, they still haven’t done it,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, the sponsor of the bill. “Looking out for the well-being of our constituents is the most important work we do here. These contracts are hurting them and we should not reward bad behavior.”

About 45,000 people each month use the rides system, which costs $40 million per year. In August, the department switched from a transportation program operated by local nonprofits to a regional system run by so-called ride brokers. Since the transition, the new system has been plagued with failures and complaints: clients have had difficulty booking rides and patients have missed appointments because rides have been delayed or failed to show up completely.

“I am dismayed that the governor would not do more to protect a situation that is downright dangerous for people,” said Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston, who serves as the Senate Chair of the state’s Health and Human Services Committee. “It is unclear why every taxpayer in this room wasn’t more prudent about how all of our money is being spent.”

Governor LePage’s veto message said, “…What company would want to bid on a Maine request for proposal or enter in to a contract with the State if they felt the Legislature would–on a whim–cancel the request, terminate the contract…no business would take that risk.”

Senator Jackson added, “This veto message seems to be the height of hypocrisy from Governor LePage. Last year, he pulled the rug out from under a hundred million dollar deal by StatOil–a company committed to creating a legacy industry here in Maine. That one act by the governor did more harm than anyone will ever be able to quantify. I stand by the legislature’s position that if we are going to give a contractor millions of dollars, they should do the job. If they don’t do the job, then yes, they should lose the contract and we save taxpayer money.”

With a total of 133 vetoes during his tenure, Governor LePage has exceeded the number of vetoes by any other Governor, including the previous record holder, one-term Governor Jim Longley with 118 vetoes.

The bill, LD 1663, “Resolve, To Require New Contracts for MaineCare Nonemergency Transportation,” is now dead.