AUGUSTA—In a vote of 19 – 16, Senate Republicans gave initial passage to a harmful and reckless budget that will hurt Maine’s elderly, children, working families, and economy while giving away additional unfunded tax breaks.
“This budget is a sham, a shift, a shaft, and a shame for Maine people,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York who also serves on the state’s budget writing committee. “Republican lawmakers have shown a callous disregard for people’s situations and medical needs. There are better ways to make changes where we use our heart and our minds.”
In a debate that lasted for more than two hours, Democrats voiced strong opposition to the Republican budget that accepted many of Governor Paul LePage’s controversial initiatives, including cuts to programs that provide low-income seniors with affordable medicine and access to doctors, childcare for working parents, and access to health care for women and veterans.
“This is an equal opportunity budget—hurting our youngest to the oldest in our state. The lives of thousands of Maine people will be dramatically changed,” said Senator Phil Bartlett of Gorham. “This is a budget attacking our good, hard working families. It is an attack on our children—from our youngest infants who are literally saved from abuse and neglect to an attack on our young people who are trying to make their way in the world. And, it is an attack on our seniors by taking away their life-saving prescription medication.”
The GOP proposal makes the following cuts:
Reduces access to medicine and medical care for more than 5,649 seniors, earning between $14,000 -$19,000 per year;
Cuts funding for early childhood education programs, including HeadStart, that help working parents continue working. These cuts will result in 216 children loosing care and another 1,400 working parents losing a child care credit.
Cuts increase the number of uninsured Mainers by thousands, shifting health care costs onto emergency rooms, hospitals, and private insurance holders.
Cuts to funding to critical home visitation programs that flag domestic abuse for more than 1,000 families in crisis.
Reduces funding for women’s health and family planning by $400,000.
“I don’t believe in taking away opportunities from young children and working families,” said Senator Justin Alfond of Portland who also serves as the Assistant Democratic Leader. “We should not be forcing families to decide whether to work or have safe childcare. There is no price tag for the safety of our young children.”
During the Appropriations committee work, Democrats presented an alternative proposal that makes necessary adjustments to bring the state’s budget into balance. The proposal includes cost-savings measures including managed care initiatives aimed at delivering more efficient health care services and a provider-fraud prevention program. It also increases funds to the state’s rainy day fund.
Senator Troy Jackson added, “As a state senator I did not sign up to decide who lives and who dies in this state. Depriving our neighbors, friends and family from health care and other life saving programs will hurt people who are honestly sick with no other place to turn.”
The budget will no go on to the House for a vote.