House Republicans Propose Using Fund For Healthy Maine To Fund Drug Treatment

The funding source is the main sticking point to the bill’s passage

Augusta –This afternoon, the four House Republicans on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee split with the rest of the committee members in a 9-4 vote on LD 1537 “An Act To Combat Drug Addiction through Enforcement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.”

House Republicans have two major issues that are illustrated in the minority report out of the committee:

1. The funding source for the roughly $2.4 million the bill calls for: House Democrats and Senate Republicans support using part of the $21 million in funds the state received as part of a settlement received pursuant to the court order in State of Maine v. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services, LLC. This money currently sits in an escrow account and House Republicans feel that tapping into it for this purpose is unnecessary considering the alternate funding source that is available.

The minority report by House Republicans proposes taking the $2.4 million out of the roughly $7 million leftover in the Fund For Healthy Maine that has been sitting unallocated for the past 3 years. Using this funding for addiction treatment is certainly within the established criteria for how this money is supposed to be used and will have no impact on the Fund For Healthy Maine or any Healthy Maine Partnerships.

2. Who would be responsible for dispersing the funding: : The proposal put forward by House Democrats and Senate Republicans calls for the Attorney General to disperse these funds. The House Republicans would have that responsibility fall within the Department of Public Safety. The Department of Public Safety already has an entire grant administration office and the Attorney General would have to establish a grant administration office from scratch.

It is important to point out that LD 1537 is emergency legislation and would require a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate for passage.

“We agree that drug addiction treatment is a really important and that this plan is a good starting point. It needs to be funded immediately. But taking it from the Attorney General’s settlement money, as has been proposed, is irresponsible considering it still has not been established who controls its distribution,” said Rep. Tom Winsor (R) Norway, House Republican Lead on the Appropriations Committee. “There should be no argument with using the Fund For Healthy Maine to help us fight this public health crisis. Drug addiction treatment meets the criteria for how the Fund For Healthy Maine funds are to be dispersed. This money is unallocated and this one-time transfer in funds will have no effect on the viability of the Fund For Healthy Maine or any of the Healthy Maine Partnerships.”

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