LePage camp says Michaud deserves no credit for VA fix bill; 10 in Congress disagree

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, discusses compromise legislation he helped negotiate that is aimed at correcting problems in the Veterans Administration health care system during a campaign stop at the Portland Public Library on Monday. Christopher Cousins/Bangor Daily News

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, discusses compromise legislation he helped negotiate that is aimed at correcting problems in the Veterans Administration health care system during a campaign stop at the Portland Public Library on Monday. Christopher Cousins/Bangor Daily News

Republicans continue to assert that Rep. Mike Michaud deserves little or no credit for his leadership on a bipartisan bill that addresses severe problems in the Veterans Administration medical system that included months- or weeks-long wait lists for treatment and in isolated cases, falsifying of records by VA directors.

“It is time to take the rose colored ‘I like Mike’ glasses off and look at the facts,” wrote Brent Littlefield, Gov. Paul LePage’s senior campaign consultant, in an email to reporters mid-day Wednesday.

“Michaud pulled the wool over the eyes of some Maine political observers and through those efforts, the Maine people,” wrote Littlefield. “Michaud intimated he played an important part of the negotiations on fixing the acute problems at the VA. But if this is the case why is he no where to be seen or heard in the national news coverage on this issue? Did hometown media fall for a Michaud false claim?”

Michaud did appear in at least two national media reports, here and here. And during testimony in the U.S. House on Wednesday afternoon, which preceded the House’s overwhelming approval of the bill, several representatives thanked Michaud by name.

They included Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland; Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; Rep. Mark Takano, D-California; Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida; Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia; Rep. Ron Barber, D-Arizona; Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas; and Rep. Scott Peters, D-California. Michaud also garnered praise from Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, who is the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also publicly acknowledged Michaud’s work on the bill.

In light of the Democrat’s gubernatorial bid, Michaud’s opponents have cast him as an ineffective congressman who has accomplished little during his time in Washington. In the case of the VA bill, testimony on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday didn’t back it up. 

Maine closes FY 2014 budget books in the black

Gov. Paul LePage announced Wednesday that state government finished fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, with nearly $50 million in surplus and unspent revenue than $93 million in reserve.

The LePage administration said in a press release Wednesday that year-end calculations revealed a revenue surplus of $39 million, which is due to higher-than-expected tax collections, and a General Fund excess of $9.8 million, which is comprised of unspent money previously appropriated to state departments.

Due to a provision in a supplemental budget bill enacted by the Legislature despite a veto by LePage, the balance of the state’s rainy day fund rose by about $8 million to more than $68 million. In addition, an account created by the Legislature in anticipation of shortages in the Department of Health and Human Services between now and June 2015 was stocked with $20 million.

After year-end cash transfers that are required by law, the state has about $12.5 million in unappropriated surplus for current fiscal year.

“With conservative cash management and reliable revenue forecasting, the state of Maine is in a sound financial position entering the new fiscal year,” said Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen in a press release. “We still have much work to do but under the leadership of Gov. LePage, the state has made tremendous progress.”

Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, who chairs the Legislature’s budget committee, said the reserves were due in part to bipartisan supplemental budget work that LePage would not participate in and then opposed with his veto pen.

“I am proud of the fiscal responsibility that our bipartisan budget and the Legislature demonstrated,” said Rotundo to MPBN. “We have substantially increased reserves for the state in a budget that the governor vetoed.”

LePage said the positive year-end balance is due to fiscal prudence under his administration.

“When I came to Augusta in 2011, I found that our state’s reserves had been cleaned out by the previous administration,” said LePage in a written statement. “We immediately went to work to pay our long overdue welfare debt to Maine’s hospitals, introduce long-term stability to the state’s finances and increase the balance of the budget stabilization fund, which is also called the rainy day fund.”

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.