Happy New Year everyone! It is time to set resolutions for the year to come and to account for the resolutions we made–and kept–last year. At the State House, Senate Democrats always set our resolutions with hard-working Maine families, seniors and small businesses in mind.
Hi, this is Senator Shenna Bellows, from Manchester. Thanks for tuning in.
In reflecting upon my first year in the Maine Senate, I am proud of what we were able to accomplish amid significant challenges. But I know we still have a lot of work left to do.
Last year, my top resolution to my constituents was property tax relief. For too many Mainers, rising property taxes pose a real threat to their way of life. I will never forget some of the seniors I’ve met who feared losing the homes they have lived in for a lifetime. And they are not alone.
Fortunately, Senate Democrats are on their side. When the Governor, deaf to constituent concerns about rising property taxes, sought to eliminate the Homestead Property Tax Exemption for anyone under the age of 65, Senate Democrats fought back. When the Republicans sought to rollback recent raises to the exemption, Senate Democrats fought back. And we won. We successfully blocked the Governor from eliminating the Homestead Property Tax Exemption and implemented a 33 percent raise to the exemption to $20,000 for every Maine household.
This is good work. But it is just a start. We ought to be problem solving in Augusta, not pitting groups against each other. We must work together in a bipartisan way to get things done.
My top resolution for 2018 is to fight to expand healthcare for Mainers by implementing Medicaid expansion. Last November, voters sent a strong message to leaders in Augusta: Mainers want more access to health care not less. And I agree.
Without health insurance, you cannot afford a doctor when you are sick and risk getting much worse. If you are sick, you cannot go to work, which is both bad for businesses and tough on your wallet. Or, you go to work and risk spreading illness and disease. It is a no-win situation.
Maine lawmakers have passed Medicaid expansion five times only to meet the Governor’s veto pen on every occasion. Now, Maine people have spoken. The Legislature and the Governor have a responsibility to uphold the will of the voters. Senate Democrats resolve here and now that we will do everything in our power to implement Medicaid expansion so more than 70,000 Mainers can get the healthcare coverage they deserve.
I have a few other resolutions for the upcoming legislative session as well. We must do more – in a bipartisan way – to confront the opioid crisis that is killing so many Mainers. I have a bill to regulate and expand access to recovery houses, which is one small part of the solution for families trying to help loved ones get treatment.
I’m also interested in how we expand access to the Internet to ensure that small businesses in our rural communities can start up and thrive. I have three bills that touch on Internet access and privacy including a bill to restore net neutrality that I will work to move forward this session.
I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in 2018 to finish what we started and make Maine work for more Maine families, seniors and small businesses. I resolve – we will fight hard for you.
This is Senator Shenna Bellows, thank you for listening and happy new year.