LePage Signs Budget, Slams Lawmakers; Promises to Seek Changes in January

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Last week (June 2011) when the budget passed in the Senate, Seth Goodall was quoted as saying:

“The budget is certainly not perfect. But negotiation is what happens when no one walks away happy.”

Apparently, Governor Paul LePage doesn’t know what “negotiation” is-although he’s certainly got the unhappy part down-pat.

From Bangor Daily News:

“They did cut taxes and they fixed the pension,” LePage said in a brief interview. “But they did not do their job in welfare. They really fell short; they significantly fell short.”

He said he signed the budget because of the tax cuts but that they are not enough in the long run and that further spending cuts will be needed to make sure the state can recover from the recession.

“I didn’t like the fact that they cut taxes and they kept spending the same,” LePage said. “If you’re going to cut taxes, you got to cut spending or you are going to have a gap.”

He said the failure of the budget to curb welfare spending will have a serious impact on the state’s ability to make an economic recovery and must be addressed. When asked if he would propose changes in the state’s welfare programs in January, he replied “yes, sir, you can bet on it.”

LePage said during the summer and fall his administration will work on proposals for the January session to consider. He said he is not sure what changes he will propose until his staff and the Department of Health and Human Services work on the options available to cut costs.

“We will look at what we can do to fix it next time,” he said.

Yet the Governor’s press release reads FAR differently than those BDN quotes:


Governor LePage Signs Budget with Largest Tax Cut in Maine History, Pension Reform, Spending Realignments and a Major Down Payment on Welfare Reform

Augusta, Maine – Monday afternoon after a careful, businesslike approach examining the details; Governor Paul LePage put his signature on the biennial budget that reduces taxes for Mainers and businesses, reforms the State pension system and makes changes to welfare programs.

“In February legislators were given a plan which was very different from previous budgets with a focus on creating jobs, lowering taxes, reforming welfare and realigning spending to better reflect today’s realities. The budget I signed today reflects a step toward fiscal responsibility and a change in the way we must operate as a State,” said Governor LePage.

I am encouraged by some of the work done and the thoughtful debates that were involved during this budgetary process. The State will now move toward a more sustainable pension system that Maine can afford and current and future retirees will benefit from.”

The two-year budget includes tax reform which provides $150 million in tax relief – including new tax code changes which conform to federal guidelines and a reduction in Maine’s top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 7.95 percent that is expected eliminate tax payments for 70,000 low-income Mainers. This represents the largest tax cut in Maine history.

Welfare reform is also a part of the 2012-2013 budget which emphasizes Maine will no longer be considered a welfare destination state. A new 5 year limit on welfare benefits which aligns Maine with other states, and conforms to federal law will go into effect. The limit does allow for certain exemptions for hardship cases – including those involving the elderly and disabled.

Drug testing will also be implemented for welfare recipients convicted of drug crimes and those who violate welfare rules will face stricter sanctions. A first offense will result in the loss of adult benefits and a second offense may lead to termination of full family benefits.

In addition, Dirigo Health will be phased out with an end date of January 1, 2014 and legal noncitizens will no longer be eligible for MaineCare benefits as of July 1, 2011. However, the Governor has made it clear that more work needs to be done. “We must continue make these types of changes to the system, not only to achieve significant savings, but to encourage Mainers to become self-sufficient. This is a down payment on welfare reform and, after implementing these changes and gauging the results, I look forward to doing more,” added the Governor.

Many give credit to the Governor for maintaining a message that pushed for fiscal change that hasn’t been seen in decades.

Both leadership in the House and Senate lauded Governor LePage for endorsing the budget Monday.

House Speaker Robert Nutting offered, “I am delighted that Governor Paul LePage today signed the biennial budget. This plan mirrors the reforms the Governor called for shortly after taking office. Among the highlights are $150 million in tax cuts, the largest in Maine history, and pension reform that will save taxpayers billions in the years to come. This budget also includes no cuts to education or programs that protect Maine’s most vulnerable. It’s also free of gimmicks like state shutdown days.”

“It is a validation of the outstanding work done by the Appropriations Committee and of the decision by Republican legislative leaders to pursue a bipartisan two-thirds budget,” said Senate President Kevin Raye. “By affording the minority party the respect of inclusion in the budget process we were able to work through our differences and secure a thoughtful budget that honors the core principles advanced by Governor LePage,” Raye added.

Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney echoed his colleagues’ sentiments. “In just 40 days the Governor gave us a document that included substantial reforms to taxes, pension and our welfare system, and this vision survived the legislative process. It helps us take a major step in moving Maine forward,” Courtney said.

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