Legislative Update - Notes on the Budget
I don't often create oir write blog entries except on the weekend, as it is a good chance to report the events and concerns of the week. This week, however, it seems rather important to begin the week with some kind of review of Bill Nemitz's article in the Portland Press Herald for Sunday. He writes about the willingness, or the lack of willingness of Maine legislators to live up to the referendum questions from November
He writes, "It couldn’t have been clearer: “Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?”
And he's right, nothing could be more clear or more simple -- especially for me as an educator. The assumption that Maine voters did not understand the question is an insult to their intelligence and their integrity.
While I do agree with much of what Nimitz writes, I do not agree that the Democrats are not showing leadership. The Democrats have faithfully and truthfully tried to bridge a gap that seems to entrench Republicans. The Democrats have been flexible while the Republicans have been just plain stubborn - not listening to the will of the voters at all.
When Nemitz writes the following, I do agree.
The simple truth is there are two moments in our democracy when our will, the real will of Maine people, should trump all else. Actually, make that three.
The first is through the referendum, that extraordinary moment when we bypass the legislative and executive branches and specifically assert, “This is what we, the people, want to do.”
The second is election to office, when we tell a winning candidate, “Go, represent us on matters large and small.”
And the third?
When, having determined they no longer give a hoot what we think, we return to the polls and throw the bums out.
On the other hand, this statement was released yesterday by the Speaker of the House.
AUGUSTA - The Maine House of Representatives moved to advance the biennial budget today by voting in favor (81 - 64) of the democratic report from the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. With the deadline of June 30 fast approaching, pressure to complete the budget is increasing and a major disagreement regarding a voter-approved increase in education funding still exists.
“Today, Democrats again put forward a responsible budget, that strengthens Maine’s economy, while working within existing resources,” said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. “This budget protects property tax relief for working families, fully funds the state’s share of K-12 public education and rejects a number of harmful and unnecessary cuts. We are on the record of where we stand and will continue fight for a budget that represents the opportunities Mainers demanded. However, we must move this process forward with purpose, with accountability and with transparency.”
With the Republican controlled Senate expected to take up the budget tomorrow and vote in support of a different report, the budget process could now head to a Committee of Conference. Such a committee would be comprised of three members of the House appointed by the Speaker and three members of the Senate appointed by Senate President Michael Thibodeau.
So, the Democrats made an offer; the offer was rejected, and now it’s time for a Committee of Conference. The Republicans reject almost any legislation which is designed to improve daily life in Maine - and the people of Maine should fully understand that the Republican agenda benefits wealthy Mainers more than any other Mainers.
The Democrats are advancing what I have labeled “Common Sense for the Common Person.” That’s an agenda I can support.