I’ve spent nearly a decade serving in the Maine Legislature and not a lot surprises me anymore. But I must say that I have never seen anything quite like this past session and would consider it a very unique experience to work within. But amidst the unusual twists and turns we did accomplish some great things for the people of Maine and it’s those achievements that I hope we can build upon as we head into the second session.
We were able to provide one of the most significant tax reductions in Maine history as part of the recently enacted two-year state budget. It’s a budget that includes roughly $1.3 billion in income tax relief over the next decade while also doubling the Homestead Exemption to $20,000 and putting more money into public schools which will help to ease the property tax burden on Mainers. Without the leadership of the House Republican caucus, this tax relief package would not have seen the light of the day. While this budget was far from perfect we must remember that we live in a time of divided government, meaning we must compromise in order to get things done.
On top of the good things that have come out of the budget we also passed some important legislation that seemed to fly under the radar.
LD 280 "An Act To Exempt Military Pensions and Survivor Benefits from Maine Income Tax" was another bill that I was proud to support. This measure eventually wound up being rolled into the new two-year state budget. Not only is it a way to say “thank you” to our men and women in uniform but it also makes Maine a more attractive destination spot for thousands of soldiers who retire and are seeking second careers. These are highly skilled individuals who will make a welcome addition to our state’s workforce.
LD 422 - "An Act To Improve Access to Treatments for Lyme Disease" allows physicians to administer or dispense long-term antibiotic therapy to a patient with acute, persistent or chronic Lyme disease. Though some physicians in Maine are currently treating Lyme sufferers, they do so in the shadows. Although this treatment isn’t illegal, it is only embraced by a minority of physicians. There are others who would be willing to treat but don’t dare for fear of disciplinary action from the board. This bill came before the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee which is the committee I serve on. During the public hearing we heard from hundreds of Lyme sufferers who were imploring us to pass this bill.
Those are just a few examples of the many pieces of legislation that passed in a bipartisan fashion and I was proud to support. The second session of the 127th Maine Legislature kicks off in a little more than four months and once again we have no shortage of seemingly contentious issues that we will once again face. My hope is that we will be able to set aside our differences and work to find some middle ground. The Maine people sent us here to work for them and they expect results. I’m an eternal optimist and I have the utmost confidence that the men and women of the 127th Maine Legislature will be able to work together and provide solutions to our most pressing issues.
Representative Sue Austin proudly serves the people of District 67 - Frye Island and parts of Gray, Casco and Raymond