Following is the weekly radio address from the Maine House Republicans. At the end of this piece is the audio version of the address for your listening pleasure.
Greetings, this is Sawin Millett, State Representative from Waterford.
on the Appropriations Committee have reviewed the $8.04 billion General Fund
budget proposed by Governor Mills. We
believe that it lacks a long-term vision for Maine and is unsustainable.
Governor Mills has
released her budget after repeatedly promising that it would provide
“sustainable” funding for the massive expansion of Medicaid without new taxes. This budget delivers on her expansion promise
– along with a collection of other campaign promises – but it lacks a long-term
fiscal vision and is unsustainable in both the short and long term.
Republicans will work in
good faith to help fix it by offering constructive and responsible alternatives,
if given the opportunity.
The budget that the
Governor has submitted represents an 11.3 percent increase over the current
$7.2 billion biennial budget. It spends
the budget surplus accumulated under the LePage administration, uses transfers from
other one-time funding sources and relies on overly optimistic future revenue assumptions.
This, after the Governor herself has warned
of a possible future recession.
Mills is making good on
her campaign promise to expand Medicaid. She promised to identify a sustainable
source for funding, but her budget does not do this. It relies on one-time monies and, we believe, significantly
understates the true cost of expansion down the road – as evidenced by her
proposed one-time transfer of $29 million from the MaineCare Stabilization Fund
as a Reserve against potential cost overruns.
Because of this, Mills’
proposal sets up Maine for budget shortfalls and future tax increases if
projected revenues fall short and Medicaid enrollment and costs exceed current
estimates. Nearly all available funds,
both one-time transfers and current revenue projections are relied upon to fund
The second year of the
biennium spends $62.6 million more than is available for that year and the
projected balance at the end of the biennium is less than $400,000. These
one-time funding sources will not be available in future years, leaving no
margin for error if projections turn out to be wrong.
The proposed budget should also worry local towns and
property taxpayers. Projected Revenue Sharing to municipalities is greatly
reduced to make her budget look balanced on paper. Instead of increasing to the
5 percent in current law, it is reduced to an anemic one half percent more than
last year’s level. Even if revenue
sharing were to be fully funded, there is no guarantee that new money to towns
will actually reduce property taxes, for, as we know, those decisions are made
at the local level.
We all support higher
teacher salaries, but the proposed $40,000 minimum teacher salary could be an
underfunded mandate that comes back to bite towns and cities in the form of
higher taxes. The proposal to include
$10 million – to be run through the EPS formula – in fiscal year 21 will likely
fall far short of the true cost of adjusting locally negotiated salary
schedules to reflect a higher starting salary – particularly in rural Maine and
in “low receiver” school systems. Our
initial conversations with local school officials support this conclusion, and
include real concerns that the local impact will continue long after the $10
million formula pass-through is gone.
The Mills budget is the first step in what will be a long process leading to a final budget. Republicans find it worrisome that budgets submitted by governors typically increase as they move through the legislative process. A flurry of new spending requests, hundreds of millions proposed by legislators, and bond bills, now at $1.6 billion and climbing, are also not included in this proposed spending plan.
Republicans are unsure
what level of budget involvement we will be given. To meet the Governor’s promise of “One Maine,”
Republicans need to be part of the solution. We wonder if Republicans are expected to be
the “responsible adults” in the spending debate. We need to be involved in setting spending
priorities for, as we all know, “if everything is a priority, nothing is a real
There are areas in this
budget where Republicans believe we can find common ground. Addressing the opioid epidemic, better
outreach services for veterans, addressing long wait lists for providing
services to disabled adults, providing real property tax relief, addressing the
projected workforce shortage, and responsibly funding Medicaid expansion, are
Republicans want to
ensure our economy continues to grow, benefiting even more individuals,
families and businesses. We will oppose
a return to the irresponsible spending and borrowing practices that left our
bills unpaid, our accounts empty, state employees working without pay,
taxpayers financially strapped and an economy in ruins.
This has been State Representative Sawin Millett with the Weekly
Republican Radio Address.
Thank you for listening.
Rep. H. Sawin Millett (R-Waterford), a farmer and former educator, represents District 71: Norway, Sweden, Waterford and West Paris. He previously served six terms in the Legislature (104-105th and 121-124th) and has a lengthy public service career that includes service on the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and as Governor Paul R. LePage’s Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.