I am glad to be back in House District 66 after a very long stretch in Augusta. It ended on a positive note by passing a budget just after midnight on July 4th. The House voted 147-2 and it passed 35-0 in the Senate, which the Governor then signed.
The budget process is never an easy one, especially when we have a very closely divided government. Over the last six months the Legislature has been combing through the budgets from each department and working hard to find a balance between revenue and services. In Maine, we are required to have a balanced budget, and we did accomplish that. Fortunately, the state is not in a financial bind and revenues are up because our economy is doing better and unemployment is down. That doesn’t make crafting a budget any simpler, however.
Compromise is never easy and that was very clear when some in the Maine House chose to hold out, forcing a state shutdown. Fortunately, it was short and those employees affected will be paid for the time they were out of work. I am glad that all the parties were able to come back to the table and work through our differences to come up with a budget that has some really positive initiatives included.
This budget has an income tax cut which will help small businesses; it eliminates the increase in the lodging tax originally proposed by the Governor and allows for a Homestead exemption of $20,000.
In RSU 14, this budget will provide an additional $2.7 million in funding and keeps revenue sharing with towns at 2%. This should provide some property tax relief for many of us. I think one of the pieces that I am most proud of is that we added $14.25 million in additional funding for direct care workers. These are the folks who care for our seniors and people with disabilities, and they really need this increase.
While this budget doesn’t have everything I would have hoped for, it will help improve education, invest in those that that care for seniors and Mainers with disabilities, help fight increasing property taxes and protect important social service jobs that would have been cut in the Governor’s originally proposed package.
The Legislature still has some work to finish up later next week, including votes to override the number of vetoes from the governor, including the solar energy bill and voting on a bond package. Our most important responsibility, preparing a balanced budget to fund the government, has been fulfilled. It certainly was challenging but everyone stretched themselves and was able to come together to do our jobs.
Jessica Fay Represents Maine House District 66
Raymond (part), Casco (part), Poland (part)
She can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 425-4218