Update On The Budget Process
The Legislature is deep into the budget process at this time. Public hearings are done and policy committees are debating and voting on their pieces of the budget and making recommendations to the Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for putting the pieces together and balancing the entire budget.
Policy committees like Marine Resources take the governor’s budget proposals for the state agency or agencies they oversee, then examine them before voting on them. The goal of each committee is to reach a unanimous vote so that Appropriations has an easier job as they work towards a unanimous vote on the overall budget. The Marine Resources Committee did reach agreement on their part of the budget.
Unfortunately, not all committees have been able to achieve unanimity. The Taxation Committee was divided on the governor’s plan to eliminate Municipal Revenue Sharing. Most members of the committee rejected cuts to municipalities on the grounds that it would create an unreasonably large tax shift to the tune of over $400 million for Maine’s cities and towns.
Even if all the towns managed to find significant areas to cut spending, they still would have to raise the property tax at a time when the property tax burden is already too high. The property tax is the most regressive tax that we have, and we need to do a better job distributing our tax burden in a way that is fair to all Mainers. We can’t have people who have lived in their homes for years – sometimes for their entire lives – taxed right out of their homes.
The Education Committee split on the proposal to make local districts partially responsible for teacher pension payments. The latter measure would have significant impact locally since minimum receivers of state education aid receive the lowest amount possible under the education funding formula.
“By the time our session finishes around the middle of June, we will have passed a balanced and responsible budget that supports our schools, erases the state’s debt to the hospitals and protects property tax payers from the massive increases in the governor’s original proposals,” said State Representative Walter Kumiega (D-District 36). “We will do this with support from Democratic, Republican and Independent members of the Legislature.”