Following is the weekly Republican radio address from Senator Jim Hamper.
A few weeks ago, my radio address focused on the unsustainability of the biennial budget proposed by Governor Mills.
I am Jim Hamper, the sole Republican senator on the Appropriations Committee. I
represent District 19 which includes southern Oxford County and part of
my last address, Governor Mills has spent $10.5 million out of the Budget
Stabilization Fund, or as I like to refer to it as the savings account, with
another $3.5 million transfer on the horizon. These transfers are to fill holes
in the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s budget, created by the
decertification of Riverview Psychiatric Center, this in spite of a large
budget surplus in the State’s checking account that could easily cover these
the meantime, revenue projections have started a downward trend, potentially
putting the Mills budget even further under water before negotiations within
the Legislature even begin.
we do know at this point is that Mills’ budget proposal falls at least $5
million short of balancing and it relies on a number of one-time funding
sources. As my good friend Representative Amy Arata pointed out in last week’s
radio address, her budget spends 99.995 percent of all available funds, leaving
a cushion of just one nickel for every $1,000 in spending.
the budget technically doesn’t increase taxes directly, it sets property tax
payers up for massive tax hikes at the local level to cover an underfunded
mandate to increase the statewide minimum teacher salary from $30,000 to
$40,000 next year. This salary bump does not account for the benefits packages
that have already been agreed upon between school districts and teachers’
unions and it will disproportionately harm property tax rates in rural Maine.
fund this increase, Mills’ budget will put an additional $10 million into the
funding formula for one year only. This additional money will only apply to the
state’s share of salaries that are currently less than $40,000, and it will
come nowhere near covering the cost.
have taken the time to reach out to my area school districts, and the outlook
for property tax payers is bleak. Pumping an additional $10 million into the
funding formula to be shared across the state’s 174 school districts is hardly
enough to relieve the pressure on land owners.
school district in my area will require an additional $1.4 million in funds
from property tax payers next year. Of the four districts that I spoke with,
the total additional cost from this underfunded mandate will be just over $3
million dollars next year.
and Democrats alike agree that teachers are an invaluable resource and should
be compensated accordingly, but if the state wants to prioritize increasing the
minimum teacher salary, the state should find a way to pay for it. Pushing this
additional cost to the local level can only mean higher mil rates and an
increased tax burden at the local level.
Thank you for listening to this week’s radio address. Again, this is Senator Jim Hamper.