Maine ends fiscal year with strong budget surplus
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration announced Monday that the state ended the fiscal year with a surplus of more than $175 million.
LePage’s finance commissioner, Alec Porteous, said the surplus is an indication that the state’s cash position is at “record levels.” Maine is carrying financial reserves — including the state’s rainy day fund — that total $316.2 million into the new fiscal year, which started July 1.
“Having this money in the bank provides an important backstop for sustained government operations in the event of a financial downturn,” Porteous said. “Also, coupling our state’s cash reserves with the fact that we no longer rely on accounting gimmickry demonstrates the effective financial management of the LePage administration.”
Republican House Leader Ken Fredette said surplus money should go back to the taxpayer or into the rainy day fund. Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine, meanwhile, said the state’s financial health means it can invest in social programs, including Medicaid expansion.
“It also means there is no excuse for delaying expansion of Medicaid, which will inject another $500 million into Maine’s economy and provide life-saving health care to over 70,000 who desperately need it,” said Gattine, the House chair of the Legislature’s joint appropriations and financial affairs committee.
The LePage administration is currently fighting a court order requiring his administration to file paperwork to seek about $500 million in annual federal funding for expansion. The governor says he wants lawmakers to come up with a long-term, “sustainable” plan to fund Maine’s share of expansion, and has vetoed a bill to fund expansion with surplus funds and tobacco settlement funds.
LePage said the state’s commitment to budgeting within its means will be advantageous to the next governor, who he said will have the “ability to focus on making investments in the future of our state rather than filling budget gaps.”
Lawmakers approved a $7.1 billion, two-year budget in 2017. This summer, lawmakers approved two spending packages totaling $64 million, in addition to a number of other laws including $75,000 for the Maine Bicentennial Commission.
LePage is a two-term governor whose second term is coming to an end with November’s election. He has put a premium on fiscal prudence.