Top Democratic leaders in the Legislature called on Governor Paul LePage to stop the smoke and mirrors on his welfare bills, which are meant to distract from his mismanagement and poor record on job growth.

 “The Governor should be fighting fraud. He should be collaborating with lawmakers to improve job training and education for struggling families, especially at time when Maine ranks at the bottom of the pack nationally for job growth,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, who spearheaded the bipartisan “Ticket-to-Work” law to support job training for struggling families last year.

 Lawmakers allocated an additional $700,000 for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and fight fraud.

 “We’ve given the Governor an additional $700,000 a year to fight fraud. Instead of fighting fraud, he is vilifying the poor to score political points,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “His proposals are anti-reform. They cut job- readiness education programs that are proven to be successful.”

 According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, despite the effort, the number of successful prosecutions has increased from eight in 2010, to 10 in 2011, to 15 in 2012. The amount of restitution that courts have ordered increased from $92,339 in 2010 to $104,341 in 2012. In 2012, only 13 people were convicted of welfare fraud .

 “What we see from the Governor and the administration is more smoke and mirrors. The Governor has the tools and resources to fight fraud. But he’s not doing the job,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who serves on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee. “Not only are his proposals unconstitutional and unenforceable, but they deflect attention from the real waste and mismanagement on his watch.”

 Under Governor Paul LePage, the Department of Health and Human Services has been plagued by chronic mismanagement and budget shortfalls that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

 The Department has squandered taxpayer dollars on a failed MaineCare rides contract and the controversial Alexander report, it has overpaid long-term care providers, and lost the state’s certification and federal funding for the Riverview Psychiatric Center. The Department is also under scrutiny for document shredding at the CDC and tampering with the public bidding process for smoking cessation dollars.

 Gattine has a proposed a measure, LD 1829, which would increase accountability and prevent fraud in the state’s anti-poverty and Medicaid programs. The bill would require an annual program integrity report on all fraud waste and abuse activities including provider and consumer prosecutions and on-going DHHS management issues.

 “We need to shed light on what’s happening at the Department,” said Gattine.

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