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Maine hospital debt payment bill back in play

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- A plan to repay a debt of more than $480 million to Maine's hospitals is back on the table in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under a measure unanimously approved by the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, the state's share of more than $180 million would be covered by future liquor sales and trigger a federal match of almost $300 million.

Repaying the state's hospitals has been one of Republican Gov. Paul LePage's top priorities. But he vetoed the measure last month because Democrats tied it to a proposal to expand Medicaid to 70,000 Mainers. LePage opposes expanding Medicaid and said he wants the two issues dealt with separately.

The bill now heads to the House and Senate floor where lawmakers hope to approve the measure before the session ends June 19.