Good morning, I am State Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, the House Democratic Leader.
Thank you for tuning in.
This week, Governor Paul LePage took the unprecedented step of issuing a line-item veto to changes made to the state’s two-year budget.
The governor vetoed funding for general assistance reimbursements to cities and towns.
The budget agreement was overwhelmingly approved by Republicans and Democrats in the Maine House and Senate.
This bipartisan agreement on general assistance was not arrived at easily. We worked with officials from cities and towns across the state — and from all political leanings — to craft an agreement that was fair and responsible.
The agreement prevented an $8 million budget shortfall in the state’s general assistance reimbursements to towns from being shifted to property taxpayers.
More than two-thirds of lawmakers in the House gave it a stamp of approval, followed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Now, if the veto stands, property taxpayers will undoubtedly foot the bill as cities and towns struggle to set their budgets for next year. It simply kicks the can to middle class homeowners that are already struggling to make ends meet.
Lawmakers from both parties worked on a compromise in the face of deep ideological differences. We represent different parts of that state with different needs and priorities.
But Maine people sent us to Augusta to put our differences aside for the good of the state. You expect us to pay the bills and meet our obligations.
Without fail during the past session, we negotiated six bipartisan budgets, including this one. In fact, in the last two sessions, a total of 11 bipartisan budgets have been passed.
At one time or another, Democrats and Republicans voted for policies we didn’t like or wouldn’t propose because — as most adults know– you can’t always get everything you want in a compromise.
This kind of compromise sets us apart from the political gridlock in Washington that makes all of us shake our heads and throw up our hands.
Now, Republicans, who voted for the budget and negotiated the compromise, are choosing not to stand up to the governor to override his harmful veto.
Instead of showing up to work this week to consider the veto, the Republicans have chosen to ignore the rules. They are afraid to stand up to the governor and his ideological policies.
This is an insult to the bipartisan budget work of this very difficult session.
As a result the cost shift will be felt by all of us. This is a fact.
We’ve heard from Republican and Democratic mayors from Bangor to Portland and beyond about the impact. Bangor officials have said such a cut would have cost the city $1 million last year alone.
Cities and towns are already struggling to maintain their own essential services, repair aging infrastructure and invest in new economic development opportunities. In this recession, more of our neighbors have had to temporarily rely on general assistance just to stay warm or keep a roof over their heads.
Cutting the reimbursement from the state won’t stop the need; it simply shifts the cost to property tax payers. The answer to this problem is not to put the financial stress onto the taxpayers.
The bipartisan agreement we approved last week prevented that cost shift.
It’s clear now that the governor is more interested in getting a pound of flesh than balancing the books. Republican legislators are all too willing to be complicit, regardless of the impact on their own hometowns, by choosing not to respond.
It’s not too late to prevent this property tax shift. Call your state legislators and tell them to keep their word.
Thank you for listening. This is Rep. Emily Cain of Orono.