Rep. Sawin Millett: Maine’s single party takeover should concern everyone

This week saw the Democrats pass a majority budget and then vote unanimously to end the legislative session for the year.  I’m Representative Sawin Millett with this week’s Republican radio address. 

Ending the regular legislative session for the year came after only four meetings of the legislature and in spite of the more than 1,600 pieces of legislation left unfinished.  Every single Republican voted to continue to do our work.

Why is the legislature out of session with so much work to do? It isn’t because Democrats think the work is finished, it is so that they will no longer have to work with the minority to pass legislation.  This was a procedural move to stop any member that isn’t a Democrat from having influence on how the state spends your tax dollars.

It is certainly the case that Democrats hold a majority in the Maine House and Senate, as well as the office of the Governor, but on Tuesday, all three told anyone who isn’t a Democrat their voice doesn’t matter.

This is plainly seen in Governor Mill’s statement that she will call the legislature back, and in the announcement made by the Speaker of the House immediately following his vote to end the legislative session for the year, that the legislature would be calling itself back into session.  

Think about that. Democrats with Governor Mills’ support, dissolved the legislative session over Republican and Independent objections and in the next breath announced the Legislature would return in a month to finish the work they just voted to end.

This is the most cynical form of government whereby legislative Democrats and the Democrat governor collude to ensure that only Democrat legislation will get to move forward when we return to a new session of the legislature in a month’s time.

It is unfortunate rank and file Democrats bought into the narrative spun for them by Senate President Jackson, the Speaker, and the Governor, that Republicans would force a government shutdown.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Budgets in the previous legislature and the one passed three weeks ago did so with bi-partisan support.  Two of them almost unanimously.  This is the norm that Mainers, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike, have come to expect and should be proud of.

When we set the budget calendar three weeks ago it was done collegially and in good faith.  It was the usual approach, a process by which we take our time to deliberate and account for all revenues to ensure your tax dollars are spent responsibly and effectively.  On Monday last week without warning that bi-partisan agreement was thrown out by Democrat leadership and the Governor with their announcement a budget had to be passed before revenue forecasts and economic projections were received.  This meant that the budget handed out 15 minutes before it was voted on had no deliberation on the needs of the Department of Health and Human Services, no deliberation on the needs of the Department of Education, no deliberation on the needs of State Police and Sheriffs, in short with no deliberation at all. 

It is hard to believe these claims that Republicans cannot be trusted, when at the direction of Democrat leadership a surprise budget summary worked on in secret was presented to Republican and Independent members and voted on three days later.  The bi-partisan budget schedule was replaced with a wholly concocted narrative about urgency and predictability as a cover. The truth is, this was done entirely to silence non-Democrats and remove them from any future negotiations.

Nothing in their one page “budget” proposal constitutes an emergency needing action in less than a week. The Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission released their report two days after this incomplete budget was forced through, and the Revenue Forecasting Committee will report by the end of April. The only reason not to wait for the budget committee to finish its work, the only reason to ignore the details of the American Rescue Plan federal relief funds, was so the Governor and Presiding Officers could ensure the passage of future Democrat proposals without compromise.  This drastic step was taken to deny input from Republicans and Independents. Its only purpose is to serve as a power grab by those Democrat who feel bipartisanship challenges their ability to pass whatever they want.

That isn’t how Maine works.  Sure Democrats were elected to a majority.  In the House they control about 53% of the seats.  They were not elected to silence the voices of those represented by the remaining 47% in the House all of whom voted against this power grab.

Republicans will continue to advocate that we need to be in session and need to do the work before us in person and open to the public. That is why every Republican and every Independent voted against dissolving the legislature on Tuesday night and why we support returning to work as soon as possible.  The Presiding Officers in the legislature and Governor Mills got what they wanted, the ability to pass Democrat legislation without compromise. Why are we now waiting for another month to take up the more than 1600 bills the Democrats left unfinished?

Republicans will continue to support legislation that is good for Maine, but we will stand in unified opposition when the Democrats’ new found power is used to drive up taxes, create joblessness, and burden the people of Maine further with government bureaucracy. 

This kind of single party takeover of your government should trouble everyone, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats know that we can, and must do better.

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