Two months into a first legislative term and one just begins to learn how this government works or doesn’t.
Maine is required to have a balanced budget. The previous legislature passed a budget for the current fiscal year (year ending June 30, 2023). As the year progressed, there were many circumstances that altered budget income and expenditures..
Half way through this fiscal year, the Revenue Forecast Committee predicted a Revenue amount that exceeds the current appropriations and allocations. The State of Maine currently has more money coming in than going out. In any case, the legislature must now pass a Supplemental Budget to make income and expenditures balance.
A bill passed by a simple majority becomes effective 90 days after the close of the session. For the additional revenue to be used this fiscal year (before June30, 2023), it must be processed as an EMERGENCY Bill, which would become effective on the date the Governor signs it.. This is the only way to balance the budget before the end of the fiscal year. As an EMERGENCY Bill it must be approved in the legislature by a 2/3 majority.
Being in the minority, my vote in the House Chamber will seldom have any effect on the outcome. However, in the case of an EMERGENCY Bill my vote can make a difference.
There are two ways to bring the budget back into balance. One way is to spend an amount equal to the increase forecasted. The other way is to reduce the projected revenue by returning that increased amount to the taxpayers.
It sounds so simple. However, when looking at the proposed budget additions, there are a number of items where unanticipated events have resulted in a legitimate increase in costs above the approved budget. Other items, in my opinion, were not adequately justified. It appeared they were added simply to spend the money.
In the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, we were asked to consider a portion of the Supplemental Budget. Example, there was a maintenance and repair item for the Maine Maritime Academy, an obvious need justified by the President of the Academy. The vote in committee was easy, vote against items without sufficient justification and vote for those items deemed necessary.
How should I vote when the bill comes to the floor? Some items are necessary, others, in my opinion. are not. So many of us are struggling to provide for our families with the higher costs of everything we need. I believe this additional income should be returned to the taxpayer. I voted against the Bill.
The Bill passed in the House with a Roll Call Vote (Yeas 113 – Nays 21 – Absent 17). This additional money will be spent by the State.
Edward J. Polewarczyk