Following is the weekly Republican radio address for the week ending February 16, 2019. The audio version is available at the bottom.
When I first started serving in Augusta, in 2005, there was a
long standing joke.
Why are there no stone walls in Augusta? Because they have all
been turned over, looking for money.
Hi, I’m Jim Hamper. I represent part of Oxford County and part
of Cumberland County in the Maine Senate, and I serve as the sole Republican
senator on the Appropriations Committee.
The word that I would use to describe Governor Mills’
recently-released biennial budget is ‘unsustainable’.
I’m very concerned that her eight billion dollar spending
proposal will send us directly back to the days of budget shortfalls and the
continued search for more money to fund the programs that have been expanded.
In her State of the Budget speech, Governor Mills said that,
“This budget is pro-growth”, and I have to agree with her.
This proposal will increase government spending by an astounding
800 million dollars, which represents double-digit growth for the first time in
Rather than new and innovative ideas that continue to move
Maine’s economy forward, it relies on an unsustainable level of government
growth and spending that doesn’t balance without one-time funding sources and
gimmicks that are sure to cause budget shortfalls down the road, forcing future
Legislatures and administrations to raid the Rainy Day Fund, increase taxes or
rein in out-of-control spending.
But the Mills budget begins negotiations in the red, using
surplus dollars generated from eight years of Republicans’ fiscal restraint to
cover a $62.6 million shortfall in the second year, along with a number of
other one-time funding sources that will be used to grow government programs,
including Medicaid expansion.
Even with the use of these one-time funds, the spending package
relies on the State of Maine taking in more tax dollars over the next two years
than we currently do today, leaving absolutely no buffer to protect Maine
This means that if our economy faces any hiccups or if any costs
exceed what is projected, we cannot pay our bills.
And this budget doesn’t put a single penny into savings.
This isn’t how I run my household, and it isn’t how Maine
taxpayers expect their hard-earned dollars to be handled.
Further, the priorities set by this budget are troubling.
While sinking at least 146 million dollars into free health care
for able-bodied adults, only 15 million dollars is earmarked for our elderly
and disabled residents who have been languishing on lengthy waitlists for
This budget also strips drug testing requirements for TANF
recipients who have previously been convicted of a drug-related crime. This requirement
is critical to safeguard taxpayer dollars from abuse. It also helps identify
families in crisis so we can connect them with the services they need to kick
their addictions and get their lives back on track.
Property tax payers will suffer under this proposed budget, as
it doesn’t reach revenue sharing levels promised by Mills, and it includes a
mandatory increase in the minimum teacher salary from 30,000 dollars to 40,000
dollars. This raise will be funded on the backs of local school districts.
In previous budgets, Republicans made a conscientious effort to
better target education resources to where they make the most difference – into
Mills’ budget will reverse this trend.
These are a few of my initial concerns as I comb through the
proposed biennial budget. As always, I look forward to working with my
colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to draft a reasonable budget that
Maine families can afford.