Archive for February 9th, 2013

Weekly Democratic Address by Rep. Anne Graham (N Yarmouth): CHALLENGES REQUIRE US TO FIND COMMON GROUND, BUILD ON STRENGTHS

Posted on February 9, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Audio link here.

anne graham

Good morning.

I am Representative Anne Graham, and I serve the people of Gray, North Yarmouth and Pownal in the Maine House. I am also House chair of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government.
Our communities and local property taxpayers are facing the possibility of an enormous tax increase. Governor Paul LePage’s proposed two-year budget relies on a tax shift that places an undue burden on our towns, cities and their residents and businesses.

Officials in my district tell me that they can’t withstand this strain. I imagine that the $425 million tax shift in the governor’s budget is having similar effects all over our state.

The property taxes increases that will result from the governor’s budget proposal will create unnecessary hardship for many Mainers. I am particularly concerned for our elderly neighbors, many of whom are living on fixed-incomes and have little — if any — cushion in their household budgets.

The tax shift breaks a promise between the state and our local communities. The governor’s budget suspends the longstanding revenue-sharing agreement that communities rely on for their roads, schools and public safety.

The governor’s budget also includes the elimination of key property tax reduction measures and cuts excise tax revenues used for local infrastructure projects.

Another troubling part of the tax shift is the added educational expenses for local districts. These new costs would come at a time when school costs already account for three-quarters of the local budget for many communities.

I fear that our communities and residents are trapped between the loss of important services – including educational programming — and property tax increases they cannot afford.

Democrats are not the only ones worried about the tax shift. I know Republican lawmakers share our concerns. And the conservative Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., has also made note of the suspension of funding to local government.

It’s clear that our state’s challenges are too big for one party to solve on its own. We must come together if we are to find sensible solutions.

That is why I am one of the lawmakers leading a bipartisan group called the Common Ground Caucus. It’s this kind of cooperation and collaboration that we believe is necessary to get our flagging economy moving and grow our middle class.

I’m also a big believer in positive thinking. While we do face significant challenges, we have many strengths and much to be proud of. Mainers are known for their ingenuity and work ethic. We are home to strong schools, communities and families. Our natural resources, from our mountains and forests to our rocky shores, are the envy of many.

I believe in Maine. We need to build on our strengths to move forward.

I know my colleagues here in Augusta believe in Maine as much as I do. Let us build on that common ground.

This is Representative Anne Graham of North Yarmouth.

Thank you for listening this morning. Have a warm and safe snowy weekend.

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Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Open and Transparent Government

Posted on February 9, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Audio link here.

lepage officeHello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

It was an honor to speak with Maine families during my State of the State address and reflect honestly on the progress made during the past two years and the challenges we face as a State.

I believe you and your family can prosper as long as government is efficient and effective.

You deserve a government you can trust and afford. Government should be transparent to the public. You deserve to know how government spends taxpayer dollars.

During my campaign for Governor, I promised that I would help create an online tool to show how the state spends your money. I’m pleased to announce that the website is now available. Open Checkbook gives Mainers information about how their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are used by government by taking budget data out of government filing cabinets and
making it available to you for the first time in an easy-to-access way.

The website is opencheckbook.maine.gov.

It enables you to search details of state spending, including vendor payments and employee compensation. We plan to expand the site even more in the coming months to include revenue data and other details related to budget expenses.

Future enhancements will include expanded graphs and budget reports. Details on vendor payments will be uploaded to the website every month and employee compensation, including salary and benefits, will be updated on an annual basis.

This site was funded by saving money in other programs. No additional taxpayer dollars were used to create this new service.

I would also like to take a moment to praise Maine Public Broadcasting Network for their commitment to a transparent and open government.

This week, it launched Maine Capitol Connection, a free, over-the-air television channel dedicated to live, day-to-day coverage of the Maine State Legislature.

Viewers will have access to daily work sessions of the Maine Senate and House of Representatives. Important committee hearings, special events, and selected press conferences will be broadcast each session.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past two years to work with Mal Leary, who is now leading a team of staff as the Managing Editor and Director of the station. I congratulate Mal for his work to get this project up and running.

Mainers deserve a government that is open. Both Open Checkbook and Maine Capitol Connection provide you with the knowledge and power to engage and participate in the democratic process. I encourage you to continue to be an active and informed citizen. Your participation will help make Maine a better place.

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