Democrats cannot break their bad spending habits.
This week I had to sign an Executive Order authorizing the Executive Branch to identify funding for several bills. I was forced to do this because the Legislature failed to pay for these bills prior to its adjournment.
Unfortunately, the Legislature’s lack of fiscal management is going to place unnecessary strain on various programs and salary negotiating processes within the Executive Branch. However, we are going to do our best to mitigate the impacts of this unfunded legislation with available resources.
The Legislature abdicated its responsibility by not funding four pieces of legislation. But these bills are law now, and the Executive Branch must implement the law. One bill lacks about $100,000 for a wage study about ambulance drivers, and another is for a needle exchange program costing $75,000.
A third bill will force more than a dozen positions to remain vacant at Riverview Psychiatric Center. And the other bill continues to throw money at a county jail system that breaks its budget every year.
Maine law demands the budget must be balanced. Since Democratic leadership refuses to fund these four bills, I have taken action by issuing an Executive Order to ensure government is being funded in a fiscally responsible manner.
Last week, I met with Legislative leadership to discuss where they expected the Executive Branch to identify money to pay for four bills. Democrat Speaker of the House Mark Eves told me during the meeting that legislators would not be coming back to Augusta to deal with the unfunded mandates. If I did call a special session, Eves stated they would “adjourn immediately.”
So, without any help, we are going to move forward. I have directed the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the implementation of four bills in a fiscally prudent manner. They will transfer any remaining balances within the Low-Cost Drugs to Maine’s Elderly Program; transfer any funding that can be generated by a redistribution of a Fund for a Healthy Maine; and transfer any savings that can be created by managing personal services at State mental health institutions, which includes implementing a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures department-wide.
These actions, which are designed to mitigate the budget impacts of unfunded legislative mandates and legislative misallocations, will remain in effect through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016-17.
However, the Legislature does have the sole authority to act at any time to provide appropriate funding for these initiatives. So, while the ball is still in their court, I am the one forced to take action.