Tuesday night’s election was monumental. Not only did America see its first transgender member of a state legislature defeat the author of a “bathroom bill,” but we also saw history being made in many other ways.
Virginia also elected a socialist to the House of Delegates, Hoboken, NJ elected the country’s first Sikh mayor, and a lawyer for Black Lives Matter was easily elected District Attorney in Philadelphia. Cities around the country saw first-time candidates sweep out incumbents, and the Pacific Coast is now entirely controlled by Democrats in every legislature and governorship.
But one of the most historic events last night was the passage of a referendum in Maine to expand the state’s Medicaid program, the first referendum of its kind in the United States. It would make Maine the 32nd state in the country to expand the essential health benefits program.
Maine’s Trump-loving, Tea Party Governor, Paul LePage, does not like that one bit.
LePage has already vetoed efforts by Maine’s legislature to expand Medicaid five times, each time arguing that it would harm Maine’s economy. However, the states whose expansion of the program were the widest, like Washington, Oregon, and California, have actually seen their economies grow since the expansions — the logic there being, of course, that as more people are able to get healthcare, more are able to work, and the more people who work, the better the economy does.
LePage issued a statement the morning after the vote that said, in part:
Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget. Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”
But Governor LePage is just one of a long list of Republicans who use the excuse of “funding shortfalls” to deny services and programs they don’t like. But “funding” has a way of magically appearing when things they like crop up — such as when LePage proposed an amendment to the state’s constitution that would eliminate Maine’s income tax, which would dry up the state’s coffers in no time flat.
Paul LePage, however, doesn’t forget when people don’t do what he wants. In retaliation for rejecting his amendment referendum, he vowed to veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat, regardless of its merits or what was in it.
There is a fight ahead for the Repbulican. Maine’s Speaker of the House, Sara Gideon, issued her own statement on Wednesday:
The legislature will move swiftly to fund Medicaid expansion as required by law. The governor and DHHS commissioner will implement its requirements as well, as they are obligated to do. Any attempts to illegally delay or subvert this law will not be tolerated and will be fought with every recourse at our disposal. Mainers demanded affordable access to healthcare yesterday, and that is exactly what we intend to deliver.”
Ultimately, LePage’s opposition to the expansion is about who he thinks “deserves” health care, which is what you find at the root of every Republican’s argument against Obamacare or anything approaching universal coverage. But the Governor is set to be term-limited out of office in 2018, and he will no longer be able to set the agenda based on hypocritical, selfish, Tea Party Republican values, nor continue his push to govern more like Donald Trump.
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images