As published in the Courier 1/30/13
The governor has proposed both his supplemental and biennial budgets.
It is important to recognize both the good and the bad in both of these budgets and not be quick to dismiss it if you’re a Democrat and not too quick to fully support it if you’re a Republican. We must go item by item, initiative by initiative, department by department, to see what we approve and disapprove of. This is the role of the Legislature. The governor releases a budget and legislators, through their respective committees, comb through every detail to see what works and what doesn’t. Along the way getting reactions from the public they are representing.
The supplemental budget is a bill that is intended to bring the state budget into balance within a biennium and in this case, that means the fiscal year ending June 30. The supplemental budget is necessary due to a $100 million shortfall in the department of health and human services and $35 million in revenue re-projection due to a more sluggish economy than predicted. This is where the governor’s curtailment in spending comes into play. Undoubtedly, we can’t tax and spend our way out of this financial mess. There will be cuts that have to be made, but there are also very significant programs and services that many simply can’t do without, such as the drugs for the elderly program. In order to save approximately $1.75 million in this fiscal year and $14 million over the next two years, the program is cut completely. I just heard from a constituent who is diabetic and is reliant on this program for his necessary medications. Hearing the phrase, “You just signed my death warrant” isn’t something I like to hear. This program is a mechanism to ensure our most vulnerable seniors get the help and support they need to survive.
That is just one in a series of cuts across the board. Other cuts in the supplemental include reducing funding for college assistance grants, eliminating cost-of-living increases for retirees, reducing funding for child adoption subsidies, and significantly tapping our rainy day fund. Putting an additional $2 million into this budget for mental health services for those not eligible for MaineCare is a hidden gem to mention. Once we’ve gotten through the supplemental budget, which should come before the House in mid-February, we can start tackling the more complicated two-year budget that includes items such as the elimination of municipal revenue sharing that you’ve been hearing a lot about. I will cover these issues and analysis with what this means for us on the local level in a forthcoming column. I have also posted and will continue to post documents, charts and data directly from the governor’s office regarding both budgets on my legislative website with the raw information so you can make an informed opinion prior to the vote in the House. I’ve heard from a lot of you already, but any input you can provide on either budget is helpful for me in casting a vote that best reflects the majority of views in our community.
Justin Chenette is the state representative for district 134 in Saco. You can get legislative updates about the work out of the 126th Legislature at www.justinchenette.com, Facebook.com/justinforsaco, and Twitter.com/justinchenette.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco