State Budget is nothing to cheer about

Spending is more important to Democrats than helping the people back home

The Supplemental budget that just passed over Republican opposition, when combined with the partisan budget passed in March, is nothing to cheer about. It represents a failure to govern in a manner that includes the needs of all Mainers, especially those that work and pay taxes.

This is House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

It is no secret that legislative Republicans are in the minority in both the Maine House and Senate and the Governor is a Democrat. Democrats can pass virtually anything they want without Republican votes.

The one area where the minority party is historically guaranteed a say is in the creation of a state budget that can pass with two-thirds support.

Most Mainers expect their elected representatives to work together. Up until fairly recently, we have when it comes to creating the state budget. That has been in sharp contrast to the dysfunction that characterizes national politics.

Last January, Republicans called for structural reforms to our income tax system after the state over-collected taxes by $1.5 billion, then gave some of the money back to people as election year checks.

Our modest proposal was $200 million out of a projected $10.3 billion budget, roughly 2% of the total spending. We wanted to let struggling Mainers keep more of their money to help pay sharply rising living costs.

The Democrats responded by shutting down the legislature 3 months early through a parliamentary loophole in order to exclude the elected Republican representatives from over 600 Maine municipalities.  Instead of finishing on the statutory June 21 date, we were immediately called back into special session. The fake adjournment has raised constitutional questions that still need to be determined by the court system.

When the partisan majority budget passed, we knew there would be a supplemental budget and we stayed at the table.  I give full credit to my Appropriations members for staying involved, but throughout this special session we’ve been in, it has been clear that the majority party did not want to negotiate with us. 

In my view, the proper role of minority Republicans is to act as responsible adults and to provide Mainers with positive, alternative choices.

It is our job to always do the best we can for the people of Maine. That means staying at the table, offering alternatives until the very end.

Right after the shameful budget maneuver, the Revenue Forecasting Committee projected additional tax revenue pushing the overall budget over $10 billion. Again, Republicans proposed income tax relief, this time $400 million, especially toward low-to middle income families. 

Our appropriations team continued to work in good faith even after Democrats violated the longstanding budget process that includes all elected members and ultimately produces a bipartisan budget.

We made offer after offer and got zero response from Democrats, which was very frustrating.  Our Appropriations members tried to stay engaged in this process throughout. Over a period of weeks and months, they raised objections to how the process was counter to what the people we represent expect.

We always hoped that our Democrat Colleagues would yield to public pressure and include some form of structural income tax relief, especially for friends and neighbors that struggle to pay bills.

In the end, Democrats had no intentions of including us in a meaningful way. At the last minute, they did include the pension deduction, but they were attempting to give as little as possible in order to look like Republicans were included.   

House Republicans carefully considered the supplemental budget at length, discussing the pros and cons.  There were some pros, but far too many cons.  Paid family medical leave is going to be a huge tax burden on the workers of the state of Maine. It’s hard to look past the obscene amount of money that the state is spending without giving more substantial tax relief to people falling further behind. 

House Republicans voted 58-1 against the bill. Many Republicans rose to speak about their disappointment in the amount of spending, lack of tax relief, removal of the senior property tax freeze, and large tax increase imposed on us to fund paid family medical leave. It passed the House along party lines with no Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

I hope that Mainers take notice of the way Maine Republicans conducted themselves and contrast it with the Democrats who turned their backs on those needing our help. Republicans wanted a budget that reflects the needs of all Mainers, not just traditional Democrat constituencies. The state budget is nothing to cheer about, especially for those that pay taxes and are struggling to pay bills.   

This has been House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

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