Is the media setting the stage for a partisan budget?  

Republicans believe all Maine people, through their representatives, should have a say in how their tax money is collected and used in the funding of our state government

Maine has a long-standing tradition of all political parties working together to craft a state budget, that is what most people want. It is something legislative Republicans want.

This is Representative Sawin Millett of Waterford with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

During her re-election campaign, Governor Mills expressed her desire for Democrats and Republicans to work together to address Maine’s problems through bipartisan budgets.  Those bipartisan budgets require support from two-thirds of the legislature.

That is why it is disappointing to see a recent headline in the Bangor Daily News that runs counter to my goals and experience as House Lead Republican budget negotiator.

The front page headline read:

“Janet Mills criticizes GOP as budget deadline approaches.”

The article does not quote the Governor directly, instead offering up this quote:

“‘If Republicans want to renege on the commitments they previously supported, then the Governor believes they have an obligation to the people of Maine to clearly state what programs and services they want to cut from the proposed budget,’ Scott Ogden, a Mills spokesperson, said.”

Following the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the past three fiscal years have resulted in unprecedented growth in General Fund revenues – caused in part – by the infusion of federal stimulus monies and the recent spike in inflation which has driven up the price of goods and services, including wage and salary increases and by unemployed workers returning to employment. In response to this surge in “one-time” tax revenues, the 130th Legislature returned $1.5 billion in over-collected taxes to Maine citizens in the form of inflation and winter energy relief payments.

The December 2022 Revenue Forecast projected a growth in General Fund revenues for the upcoming biennium to $10.5 billion, an increase of $1.9 billion from the current biennial budget. This level of projected revenue means that Maine does not have to cut any existing programs. In fact, it leaves the state in a position to return money to taxpayers via permanent tax reductions, while remaining under the statutory budget cap limit.

The state is now in a position where it can honor existing commitments AND return money to taxpayers trying desperately to keep pace with rising price increases.

Funds are there for honoring existing commitments, including:

  • 55% funding for K-12 education
  • School breakfast and lunch
  • Medicaid obligations
  • Childcare
  • Behavioral health and substance abuse
  • Retirement commitments

My Appropriations Committee colleague Sen. Rick Bennett of Oxford added:

“‘I find it really unhelpful and perhaps hostile to the governor’s expressed desire for a cooperative, bipartisan budget for her to characterize positions Republicans haven’t taken as of yet as we do our job to properly scrutinize the increases that she’s proposed,’ he said.”

Appropriations Committee members are currently reviewing report-backs from  Policy Committees to assess new spending requests, including whether or not add new positions in light of the large number of positions that are currently unfilled.

I am hopeful that the Bangor Daily news piece is not a sign that we will depart from a process that ultimately includes input and ideas from every corner of Maine.

To deny input from areas represented by Republicans and Democrats alike result in majority Democrats passing a budget before March 30, then pretending that the Legislature’s work is done by adjourning the Legislature months before the beginning of the upcoming biennium.   

I remain hopeful they will not do that.

From my perspective, the budget process has been going smoothly, with no sign from Democrats on the Appropriations Committee or House Speaker Talbot Ross that they plan to take the drastic steps required to circumvent the traditional budget process and pass a majority budget. This spirit of respectful cooperation runs counter the poisonous atmosphere in Washington.

Like most of my Republican colleagues, I am here to seek solutions and solve problems.

We highlight differences, and vote accordingly, when necessary. Always with what we believe are the wishes of our constituents and for a better Maine.

This has been Representative Sawin Millett with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

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