Weekly Democratic Address by Rep. Lori Fowle (Vassalboro): Budget and Other Challenges Require Bipartisan Coorperation
I am excited to be part of a large group of first-term legislators in the House. I am new to the State House, but I’ve been active in local government for years. I served on the Vassalboro School Board for nine years and I’m currently on the town’s budget committee.
Running for state representative was the logical next step. I’ve seen the kind of budget hits that our towns and schools have taken over the years. I realized that I needed to be in the place where the laws were made – not just on the receiving end.
During my campaign, the people of my district told me that they wanted their lawmakers to come together to find commonsense solutions. I imagine that’s what Maine people all around the state expect and want from us.
I’m happy I’ve seen lots of cooperation at the State House. I’d like to think that the large group of first-term members in the House has something to do with that. New members are finding common ground as we learn and work together.
We’ve been sharing experiences about our bills. I hadn’t anticipated how a bill could have a life of its own – in a good way. Each needs nurturing and care. In my case, I’ve sponsored a bill to help police locate stolen items sold to pawn shops and another bill to provide disabled veterans with transportation to needed medical appointments. I’m guiding my bills through the process and getting input from stakeholders because I want them to become effective laws.
This week, the Legislature overwhelmingly approved a supplemental budget for current fiscal year. The budget-writing committee had the daunting task of dealing with a $153 million shortfall.
The committee worked hard and reached a unanimous decision on a budget that removed much of the potential harm contained in Governor LePage’s proposal — including cuts to important social service and health programs. Still, the supplemental budget underscores the need for efficiencies, a fair tax system and a balanced approach.
Moving forward, the two-year budget will become an increasing focus at the State House. I know that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about it.
The governor’s proposal relies on a $425 million dollar tax shift to local communities. I’ve seen how difficult it is for local communities to deal with cutbacks, even before they faced the burden of the governor’s proposed tax shift.
Last year, Vassalboro property taxes went up an entire mil and the school district seriously considered significantly cutting back the hours of its sole librarian. Thankfully, that did not happen.
The budget has the potential to hurt every district, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. We need a budget that will strengthen our economy and our middle class.
I’m hopeful about cooperation between lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. I’m working with other members of the Augusta delegation and look forward to addressing the city’s concerns about the upcoming budget.
You have to work together. It’s that simple.
This is Representative Lori Fowle of Vassalboro. Thank you for tuning in this morning.