Maine governor will ignore 'ruinous' ballot initiative on Medicaid expansion

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage said on Wednesday he will not expand the state's Medicaid program under Obamacare, ignoring a ballot initiative widely backed by voters, calling it "ruinous" for the state's budget.

Maine looked set to become the first state in the nation to expand Medicaid by popular vote.

About 60 percent of voters in Maine approved the ballot proposal in Tuesday's election, according to the Bangor Daily News newspaper.

Republicans in Washington have failed several times to pass legislation that would dismantle former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.

RELATED: Maine Governor Paul LePage

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MEXICO, ME - MARCH 22: Gov. Paul LePage holds a town hall-style meeting in Mexico, Maine. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) after LePage introduced him at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Joel Page
PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 8: Gov. Paul LePage signals that he is done with answering questions during a 'town hall' session at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 8: Gov. Paul LePage brings his town hall tour to Portland, speaking at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 8: Gov. Paul LePage brings his town hall tour to Portland, speaking at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 8: Gov. Paul LePage brings his town hall tour to Portland, speaking at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. An audience member holds up a sign as Gov. LePage leaves the room. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
LEWISTON, ME - OCTOBER 13: Gov. Paul LePage waved goodbye to the audience after holding a town hall style forum at the Regional Technical Center at Lewiston High School Tuesday, October 13, 2015. The Governor addressed issues of education, minimum wage, gun control, and more. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
SACO, ME - SEPTEMBER 19: Governor Paul LePage cuts the ceremonial ribbon during the Riverwalk bridge dedication ceremony in Saco, ME on Saturday, September 19, 2015. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND - JUNE 3: Governor Paul LePage speaks about a grant from the Maine Department of Corrections to fund the Building Alternatives program at Learning Works. (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, ME - JANUARY 7: At the end of his inauguration speech, Gov. Paul LePage waves to the crowd at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, January 7, 2015. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, ME - JANUARY 7: Sen. Pres. Michael Thibodeau administers the oath of office to Gov. Paul LePage while First Lady Ann LePage looks on during his inauguration at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, January 7, 2015. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, ME - JANUARY 7: After taking the stage, Gov. Paul LePage acknowledges cheers from the crowd during his inauguration at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, January 7, 2015. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
LEWISTON, ME - NOVEMBER 5: Maine Governor Paul LePage speaks to supporters at the Franco American Heritage Center after being reelected on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
AUBURN, ME - OCTOBER 21: Gov. Paul LePage talks with Jim Wellehan of Auburn in the lobby of WMTW television in Auburn, Tuesday, October 21, 2014, following the final of six gubernatorial debates. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, ME - OCTOBER 15: Current Maine governor Paul LePage before the Maine State Chamber's Gubernatorial Forum at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, ME on Wednesday, October 15, 2014. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, ME - July 15: Maine Governor Paul LePage in his office at the State House in Augusta. (Photo by John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
GRAY, ME - JUNE 3: Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a Storey Brothers Excavating site in Gray on Tuesday. Tuesday, June 3, 2014. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Maine Governor Paul LePage delivers his State of the State Address in the House Chambers at the State House in Augusta on Tuesday February 4, 2014. (Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
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LePage said he will not implement the expansion until it is fully funded by the Maine legislature.

"Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine's budget," LePage said in a statement. "I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled."

LePage said a previous Medicaid expansion in Maine in 2002 had created $750 million in debt to hospitals and took resources away from vulnerable people.

Maine has been prominent in the nation's healthcare debate. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, helped block her party's efforts to repeal Obamacare. Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment on LePage's decision.

SEE ALSO: Former RNC Chair Michael Steele mocks Trump over huge Republican loss in Virginia

Maine voters were asked to approve or reject a plan to provide healthcare coverage under Medicaid for adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 is about $16,000 for a single person and about $22,000 for a family of two.

If implemented, about 70,000 additional state residents would be eligible for the Medicaid program, local media reported, in addition to the roughly 268,000 people who are currently eligible. (Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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