Posted: May 14, 2011 | Appropriations and Financial Affairs, Senator Hill, Weekly Radio Address

Weekly Radio Address – Sen. Hill – May 14th, 2011

Good Morning and thank you for tuning in. This is State Senator Dawn Hill from York. I am the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

We are in the closing stretch of analyzing and crafting a budget that will be in place for the next two years. Earlier this week, Appropriations received a “change package” from the Governor. The package contains proposals for an an additional $164 million in cuts and includes an additional $85.6 million in new spending.

We all understand that the economic landscape, nationwide, including Maine, is challenging. We are rising from an economic trough. And, we can continue to rise and prosper with smart and deliberate solutions that not only take in to consideration the bottom line for the present but weighs the impact on the future.

And it is for both the present and the future that I am most concerned.

As a State Senator I proudly see my role in Augusta as that of doing Maine people’s business. I am accountable not only to my district but also to the entire state. As is the Governor and the Majority Party.

And it is to that end that my Democratic colleagues and I are holding the Governor accountable to his promise—a promise to protect Maine’s neediest. A promise to make government more accountable. And, a promise to save money and create jobs.

The proposed budget accomplishes few of those things. Instead, it is wholesale abandonment of our neediest—the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, the working poor and our veterans.

While it may attempt to balance the state’s budget, it does so with severely deep cuts in services, at the expense of Maine people, while giving more leeway and tax breaks for big, out of state business and for those who need it the least.

The latest proposal cuts thirty-five million dollars by eliminating health care coverage, known as MaineCare, to 30,000 of Maine’s working poor who earn less than $10,000.

Other cuts include eliminating the Drugs for the Elderly Program—which will hurt more than thirty-three thousand seniors.

And, yet, this new proposal includes tax breaks for those making more than $350,000.

We need to take a second look at how priorities are being set for the people of Maine.

As the Portland Press Herald rightly editorialized on Friday, it is a matter of debate whether or not these kinds of cuts really save money.

If you are strictly looking at the budget as a math equation then perhaps it works. But when you take away health insurance it costs all of us more money.

Why? Well, because it means that those without insurance go without care.

They get sicker and then when they finally seek treatment it costs more. People end up in emergency rooms and we end up treating disease instead of working on preventative care—all of which pushes up health care costs, even to those of us who have health insurance.

I think if there is one thing we’ve all learned from this recession, it’s that no one is immune from financial crisis. I’ve heard story after story of hard working people who through no fault of their own, are one paycheck away from losing everything because of a lay off or a chronic health diagnosis.

Eliminating the safety net for a disabled vet or a laid-off single parent may look like a “fiscally responsible” way to save money on a line item. And, it may even make for good political rhetoric. But who really wins here when people are displaced from their homes and can’t afford to pay their medical bills. In the face of recession, we have a civic and social duty to maintain the safety net.

As lawmakers, we are in a precarious position. We have to carefully balance and evaluate how best to not overburden tax payers, all the while, not abandoning the very people who need a helping hand.

My Democratic colleagues and I are working on fiscally responsible alternatives that will benefit more Maine families.

We believe that we can do better—and that starts with holding all of us accountable for what we say, what we do, and what we promise. I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues as well as those across the aisle. I know that come June, at the close of the legislative session, my Democratic colleagues and I will be able to say that we had the interest of all Mainers in mind and did our best to put forth an economic road map to improve Maine.

Thank you for listening. Have a good weekend. And, again, this is State Senator Dawn Hill.