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Baldacci says paying hospitals with liquor contract was his idea

BaldacciGov. John E. Baldacci took to radio Tuesday morning to correct Republican “half-truths” and “misstatements” concerning Maine’s nearly $500 million hospital debt, but wound up spinning his own false yarn.

On the Voice of Maine’s George Hale and Ric Tyler Show, Baldacci echoed comments made at a press conference last week that ads run by Maine People Before Politics, a 501(c)4 group connected with Gov. Paul R. LePage, were rife with falsehoods.

Baldacci said he called a press conference last week to call attention to the half-truths and misstatements of ads run by Maine People Before Politics. In exchange with Tyler, however, Baldacci introduced a revisionist view of his administration’s handling of the liquor contract and the hospital debt.

[RELATED: Change of Heart: Democrats finally cave on paying hospitals...]

Baldacci said he inherited hospital debt and “did not complain about it,” but instead crafted an agreement with the Maine Hospital Association to pay down the debt.

“In fact, we ended up in agreement with the Maine Hospital Association to pay off more than $473 million in settlements to them,” said Baldacci. “I used Recovery Act dollars to make sure that first in line was the hospitals to take care of those settlements,” he said.

Tyler then raised an obvious question: If Baldacci entered an agreement to pay the hospitals, then why are we still trying to pay them?

Said Tyler, “We had a plan in place, then, to pay the hospitals and take care of the debt. Yet the debt still exists today. Where was the disconnect?”

Said Baldacci, “No, there was no disconnect, Ric, because the idea was the renewal of the liquor contract or going out to bid would give the state the resources in which to wipe it out so we left a vehicle – left money in the rainy day account – to be able to have that happen. And we talked about doing it, but it was so late into the administration other than just laying out the groundwork and leaving those tools available, that was the best we could do. We could have renegotiated the liquor contract earlier.”

[Related: 9 things Democrats want more than paying hospitals...]

A spokesman from the Governor’s Office said Baldacci’s comments were simply not true.

LePage intends to respond to Baldacci’s accusations against the MPBP ads and the potential 2014 gubernatorial contender’s new narrative of events.

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