Maine House Gives Final Approval to Responsible Budget
AUGUSTA — In a vote of 102 to 43, the Maine House on Thursday gave its final approval to a responsible bipartisan budget proposal that would blunt massive property tax hikes in Governor Paul LePage’s two-year budget.
“We started with an incredibly difficult challenge and settled on a responsible solution that is far better than the budget Governor LePage sent us,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “This is a budget that will blunt a massive property tax hike on all Maine people, one that restores funding to schools and ensures our seniors can pay for their health care and medicine.”
Six months ago, LePage presented the Legislature with a $6.3 billion budget that would shift nearly $400 million of the tax burden to communities and their property taxpayers. The governor’s budget would hike property taxes to fund the tax breaks for the wealthy that were passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature two years ago.
The bipartisan budget proposal significantly reduces LePage’s cuts to cities, towns and Maine’s schools. It would restore $125 million in cuts to revenue sharing, replaces the Circuit Breaker cuts with a $29 million property tax fairness credit and restores $9 million in cuts to the Homestead Tax Credit. It also restores $32 million in cuts to Maine’s schools.
“Today, we achieved what many said was impossible: passage of a bipartisan budget, despite a significant shortfall and a divided state house,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “While Democrats would have prefered to suspend the unfunded tax breaks for the wealthy, this was a non-starter for Republicans.”
The restorations are partially paid for by capping $65 million in income tax deductions for the wealthy, closing $40 million in corporate loopholes to be identified by a task force and slightly increasing the state’s sales and meals and lodging taxes. The budget includes a temporary half-penny increase in the sales tax and a 1 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax that both sunset after two years.
The House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston called the budget a true compromise.
“This is not a Democratic budget or Republican budget. It is a responsible budget built on collaboration and common ground,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston. “We were not sent here to represent our political parties. We were sent here to represent the people.”
The budget also restores cuts to the Drugs for the Elderly Program that helps seniors pay for their medicine and care. It also reduces waitlists for enhanced specialized MaineCare services for people with severe disabilities.
The proposal, LD 1509, faces a final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor for action.