AUGUSTA – Maine’s next governor took a few minutes Thursday to talk about why she ran and her priorities once she takes office.
“When I saw the state shut down, state government shut down 16 months ago, 17 months ago now, I thought, ‘This is wrong.’ It’s wrong for the people. It’s not how government should run. And that is when I kinda firmly decided I can do this and should do this,” Governor-elect Janet Mills, who is currently the state’s attorney general.
Ensuring Mainers have access to health care and reducing insurance costs are priorities.
“Healthcare is the number one priority for businesses in Maine,” she said. “It’s the number one priority for people in Maine. I want to make sure Maine is a state where businesses can thrive.”
To do that, Maine’s leaders have to address the state’s addiction to drugs.
“Within that health care topic is the opioid epidemic,” Mills said.
She said she wants to add recovery coaches at hospitals to help connect drug users with doctors and other support services, and supports expanding programs in the state’s jails and prisons.
Expanding Medicaid, something the governing has dragged his feet on, is next.
“My understanding is the money is there in the Medicaid budget,” Mills said. “I’d like to do an audit of the Medicaid budget and find out where all the money has gone.”
She also wonders about the reported state budget surplus.
“Look, we know the governor’s office, the administration, owes this office about what $8 million dollars for bills they haven’t paid,” the attorney general said. “Who else haven’t they paid? So we don’t want to assume there is a big surplus and a stabilization fund of such and such and such of an amount. I want to see where the money has gone.”
She also plans a program audit of the Department of Health and Human Services, which Mills said has been “operating in the dark” for far too long, and a review of all of LePage’s executive orders — especially the wind power moratorium.
“That put the kibosh on a ton of business investment in Maine,” she said, adding it’s especially hurtful to places like the University of Maine who are working on developing new technologies.
“My budget will address education, it will address healthcare first and foremost, and we will not be interested in increasing taxes,” Mills said. “We will be interested in pumping up the economy in areas where it has not been pumped up so far and addressing the needs of the rim counties and northern Maine.”