It’s been two days since the budget was enacted and the government shut down enacted. It’s important to take a bit of time to reflect on all that happened, the state of the budget, and some of the observations I was able to make.
At least the budget finally passed. I’m glad that it passed and while it is not at all what I may have wanted, it’s also important that we have to compromise with the other side of the aisle, though I do believe that the House Republicans held the process and the negotiations hostage. The budget does improve the conditions for Maine families and for people’s interests, and I’m glad of that.
The budget doesn’t contain everything that we wanted, but it will improve education, protect Maine’s most vulnerable individuals from some hurtful cuts in services, continue property tax decrease through the Maine Homestead Exemption, and protect jobs on the Goernor’s cut list.
The budget does fund education at the highest level in the state’s history, though still not at the 55% level. The Republicans would not have voted for the budget if the 3% surcharge remained in effect - yet the work on that referendum gave us greater motivation for funding education than any other single effort. Thanks to the voters in Maine for this.
The budget also contains provisions for reversing disastrous proposed cuts in the Department of Human Services, and in helping rural hospitals. We realize the need to help these hospitals, and took this provision seriously.
And we worked very hard to preserve decreases in property taxes. The governor’s original proposal eliminated the Homestead Exemption for those under age 65. This agreement rejects that and maintains the promise we made to property taxpayers in the last biennium. Homeowners will see the full $20,000 exemption promised to them. In the first year towns will contribute more than they will in the second year.\
All in all here is a list of some things rejected by the Governor’s original budget proposal.
• Reject a flat tax
• Rejects changes to corporate tax
• Rejects changes to estate tax
• Funds indigent legal services at $38 million, which will cover the gap and fund the next two years.
• Kept Downeast Correctional Center open for another year, saving 50 jobs.
• Saved the Civil Rights Teams that were on the chopping block.
• Cut the governor’s legal defense budget - for representation in cases the Attorney General deemed against the state’s best interest.
So, the process and the results are a negotiated compromise.
It’s not what the Democrats wanted; it’s not what I wanted. On that personal note, the world changed for me on Friday evening, July 30, 2017. When the budget proposal was brought back to the house with almost unanimous Senate support, and the House Republicans made absolutely no comments about the proposal, I knew something was happening. I did not expect the 60 House Republicans to vote against the budget based on a one-half of one percent difference in funding.
Watching the House Republicans obfuscate on the creation of a new budget and watching the intrigues and manipulations created by the minority in that 36 hour period made me complete understand the words “tyranny of the minority.” The budget does need to be passed by a 2/3 majority; however, I had never seen such political manipulation. Perhaps I was too naive, perhaps the Democrats were too trusting.
When the final vote of approval came on July 4 at 2:00 AM, the entire House was exhausted. We had been in the chamber or in caucus since 10 AM on July 3 - as well as having been in session for 10 days previous.
As a freshman legislator, it was a year of learning. That’s OK, I learned a lot. Now it’s time to take care of the garden and mulch the tomatoes.