AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Leaders of two committees in the Legislature say they're getting closer to agreement on a plan to pay the $484 million debt to Maine hospitals.
Governor Paul LePage proposed a hospital payment plan in January, and has been repeatedly calling on lawmakers to pass the plan.
Last week a political action group that backs the Governor even launched a TV campaign ad about paying the hospitals.
The Appropriations Committee is reviewing the financial part of the plan. Committee leaders say a non-partisan review suggested borrowing the money in a revenue bond to pay the hospital debt -- similar to the Governor's proposal -- would be the better approach in the long term.
The Governor's plan would use income from a new wholesale liquor contract to pay back that bond over ten years. Democrats have proposed requiring the winner of that liquor contract to make an up-front payment to settle the hospital debt.
Appropriations leaders say the review suggested the revenue bond approach would realize more income for the state from liquor sales.
A second committee, Veterans and Legal Affairs, will actually write the final plan that will then be voitd on by the full Legislature. Still to be worked out in that agreement is the actual structure of a new liquor contract, including how much of the management work will be done by the state.
Committee leaders say there are a lot of detrails in the plan and they want to make sure they get it right. As a result, Committee co-chair Sen. John Tuttle (D-York) says it will be sometime in May, and possible even June, before final votes on the hospital plan. Tuittle says he's hoping for a unanimous vote from the committee.