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Gov. LePage floats hospital tax to pay for Medicaid expansion

FILE - Mainers for Health Care rally outside the State House prior to Gov. Paul LePage's State of the State address, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Some lawmakers said Monday that Maine’s Republican governor has been floating a new tax on hospitals to pay for voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau said that Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has sent word the governor is considering the idea. LePage’s office didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

But it’s unclear whether lawmakers would get behind such an idea at this stage. Thibodeau said if formally proposed, such a tax hike would typically receive a public hearing.

Maine Hospital Association Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications Jeffrey Austin said the idea would be opposed by Maine hospitals that already pay $100 million in taxes each year.

Mainers voted last fall to expand Medicaid to over 70,000 low-income adults by July 2.

But Medicaid expansion is on hold as LePage’s administration fights a lawsuit by advocates calling on the governor to stop blocking expansion.

Maine Equal Justice Partners Executive Director Robyn Merrill said the governor has had months to come forward with a spending plan.

“The Legislature came up with a plan and it’s sitting on his desk,” she said.

LePage’s administration for months has argued lawmakers must first appropriate money for expansion — under his terms, which includes no tax increases.

Lawmakers last week approved legislation directing up to $54.5 million in surplus funds and tobacco settlement money for expansion.

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