Senate Democrats will not support a budget that ignores will of voters

Posted: May 15, 2017 | Senator Jackson, Senator Libby
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Jackson, Libby call on GOP to stop threatening shutdown and get serious about budget

AUGUSTA — Senate Democrats said Friday that they will not support any budget that ignores the will of the voters, reneges on the state’s commitment to fully fund public schools, or pushes the costs of education onto middle-class Mainers and property taxpayers to fund a tax cut for the rich.

Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby also called on legislative Republicans to get serious about negotiating a state budget. A biennial budget must be enacted by the end of June to avoid a state government shutdown, which would cause chaos and uncertainty for Maine people and businesses.

Jackson and Libby released the following statement:

“Democrats have put forward a responsible, comprehensive budget proposal that respects the will of the voters, fully funds education and lowers property taxes. Meanwhile, Republicans have made only one demand: Repeal the voter-approved education funding referendum to pay for a massive tax cut for the rich. In fact, Republicans are so fixated on their massive giveaway to the state’s highest earners that they would not only ignore the voters of Maine, but threaten a state shutdown that would hurt Maine’s economy, its seniors and its families. Their single-minded devotion to tax cuts for the rich has held the budget process hostage, jeopardizing not only our schools, but our entire state.”

“Democrats have led 20 Town Hall meetings throughout the state, from Fort Kent to Kittery, Belfast to Rumford. Everywhere we went, Mainers urged us to respect the voters, to show deference to the democratic process. Senate Democrats will do just that.”

“The law requires the state to fully fund the public schools, paid for in part by a surcharge on the highest incomes of the top 2 percent. The GOP claims it supports additional school funding, but not the surcharge. However, they have not put any alternative on the table.”

“It’s time for Republicans in the Legislature to get serious. The governor has proposed his budget. Democrats have proposed ours. Where is theirs? We call on our colleagues across the aisle to show their hand. But they should know one thing: The law is on our side. The voters are on our side. And Senate Democrats will not be bullied or threatened into caving in on a bad deal for Mainers by irresponsible threats of a government shutdown.”

BACKGROUND:

  • Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, Appropriations Committee member Rep. Jeff Timberlake and Taxation Committee member Rep. Bruce Bickford have threatened a government shutdown if lawmakers don’t repeal Question 2, the voter-approved law that fully funds public schools by imposing a new surcharge on taxable income above $200,000. Roughly 2 percent of Maine’s tax filers will be affected by the surcharge.
  • Democrats unveiled their budget proposal, The Opportunity Agenda, on April 6. The plan calls for continuation of existing services and investments in education, jobs and property tax relief — all without raising a cent in new taxes.
  • Republicans in the Legislature have yet to disclose any plan for the budget, or any plan to fully fund education as required by Maine law.
  • The state budget will require two-thirds support from Senate Democrats and the other three caucuses in the Legislature. A state budget must be enacted by midnight June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown that would leave thousands of workers without income, jeopardize Maine’s economy and grind state services to a screeching halt.

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