Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: Reactions
Immediately after the conclusion of the LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget meetings with legislative leaders and press, opinions were voiced. Democrats for the most part were cautious in their responses:
“We will carefully be reviewing the Governor’s budget. We know there are some ideas we like and others we have very strong concerns about,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “Our focus will be on protecting middle class families, schools, and seniors, while growing good paying jobs and a strong economy.”
“Our committee will be pouring over the details of the budget with a focus on protecting Maine families, seniors and our schools,”said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “I’m optimistic Republicans and Democrats can work together to craft a fiscally responsible budget. I do have concerns as I look at the budget, particularly the nearly $50 million cut to the Drugs for the Elderly program, which helps so many seniors across the state afford their medicine.”
Senator Linda Valentino, D-Saco, who serves on the Appropriations panel said: “Today was an important first step for our state. There are some things that I’m pleased by and others are that I’m concerned with. But overall, I know that over the next four months our committee will continue the tradition of working together toward consensus.”
Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) executive director Garrett Martin was far more scathing:
“The state budget is a reflection of the choices we make together to strengthen our communities, support vulnerable residents, and build a vibrant economy. Governor LePage’s two-year state budget proposal released today reflects the wrong choices. Prioritizing tax cuts for the top 1% and corporations is a failed prescription for growing Maine’s economy.
“The tax cuts contained in the governor’s budget proposal will benefit the wealthy and corporations while raising sales and property taxes for the rest of us. They will also trigger harmful cuts in health care for children, the elderly, and the disabled, delay essential repairs to our crumbling roads and bridges, and undercut a good education for our kids.
“The experience of other states that have followed a path that prioritizes tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations shows that this is an ineffective, fiscally irresponsible strategy for growing the economy. Those states have not realized significant economic benefits but have cut programs families and businesses value, increased property and sales taxes, and had their credit ratings downgraded.
“Instead of trying to cut our way to prosperity by giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, we should be investing in the sturdy foundation of a strong economy – a healthy and educated work force, good roads and other public services, and other needed investments in people and infrastructure that are proven effective at helping businesses and workers thrive. That is the right choice for Maine. We look forward to working with legislators in the coming months to ensure that the final budget they approve reflects these priorities.”
Republican reaction has been cool to raising of taxes, which positive to other aspects of the plan.
- Republicans did not offer an endorsement of LePage’s ambitious tax code overhaul — which would increase the sales tax while expanding it to 200 goods and services that are not taxed now. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that many sitting Republican legislators campaigned against a 2009 tax reform plan crafted by Democrats and overturned in a 2010 referendum that included a comparable expansion of the sales tax.
The governor’s budget is designed to reduce Mainers’ tax burden by $300 million through an income tax cut, and Republicans have embraced some elements of the proposal publicly while reserving judgment on the sales tax piece. Republican leaders, who will be asked to help carry the governor’s budget within their caucus, have focused on lowering the income tax.
At least one strong supporter of the governor, WLOB radio personality Ray Richardson, has broken the logjam of GOP silence: