RADIO ADDRESS: In the Marines, you don’t stop until the job is done. It should be the same in the Legislature.
In the Marines, I learned an important lesson that has stayed with me throughout my life: Don’t stop until you get the job done, regardless of the circumstances. It is a lesson that I have carried with me throughout my entire career.
Hello, this is Senator Brownie Carson of Harpswell. Thank you for tuning in.
As lawmakers, I believe we have a profound responsibility to serve the people of Maine by funding roads, bridges, and education as well as taking care of our seniors and veterans. So when a small group of Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted in this Spring to go home without finishing the job, I was dumbfounded.
This move went against everything I have learned in a life of public service. It also left important bills, representing critical programs, unfinished or unfunded. Maine lawmakers must return to Augusta and finish the work we started in January.
One major piece of unfinished business is an essential proposal to support elderly and disabled residents and the dedicated workers who care for them. Our nursing homes and independent living associations — like the Independence Association in Brunswick — are in desperate need of help. The direct care workers employed by these organizations are in short supply and work hard for low wages. These people are dedicated and competent and do incredible work caring for our disabled and elderly neighbors. They deserve our support.
Fortunately, the Legislature’s budget committee took an important first step by approving a narrow spending package to raise rates for direct care workers and fund our county jails earlier this week. However, this spending package still needs to earn the approval of the full Legislature, which can only happen should lawmaker return for a special session. There are many other important bills and initiatives still remaining in limbo.
An especially important piece of unfinished business provides funds to combat the opioid crisis – a crisis which is claiming the lives of more than one person every day in Maine. The proposals before us are the product of the Legislature’s bipartisan opioid task force, which released its report last December. These proposals will expand access to treatment and ensure that more Mainer citizens struggling with addiction will get the help they need.
Related to the opioid epidemic, but relevant to the health care needs of Maine people, the governor must implement Medicaid Expansion for citizens who are eligible under the law passed by voters last November. Many people who seek treatment for drug addiction but currently have no means to pay for it will be helped, and the health of our entire population will improve.
The Legislature also must fund two bills that would improve services for Maine’s veterans. The first seeks one year of operating funds for the Betsy Ross House in Augusta, which provides shelter for homeless women veterans. The other would establish a second veterans court, modeled on the successful court in Kennebec County. This special court would help veterans battling mental illness and substance abuse get back on their feet.
Another critical piece of work that awaits legislative action is education funding. Schools across Maine need to know how much funding they will be getting from Augusta to make their 2018-19 budgets work. We have a responsibility to appropriate roughly half of the funding for public schools so we don’t leave superintendents, school boards and teachers in limbo.
Lastly, we have the opportunity to send bonds to the voters, funds from which will make critical transportation, water pollution control and higher education investments. The bonds are key to maintaining roads and bridges, public buildings and wastewater facilities in communities across the state.
These proposals represent some of the work that still needs to be completed in Augusta. The vast majority of the proposals have broad, bipartisan agreement — we simply need to go back into session and take action. These items represent the basic functions of state government.
It is frustrating that we are in this mess but I am hopeful that we can come together soon, put aside partisanship and meet the real needs of the people of Maine.
In the Marines, you don’t stop until the job is done. It should be the same in the Legislature. I stand ready to do my part to finish this work.
This is Senator Brownie Carson, thank you for listening.