Weekly Democratic Address by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: Democrats Stood Up For Good Policy, Keeping Promises to Towns

Posted on February 14, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |


    Jackson says, “Democrats led on standing up for good policy and doing the right thing by keeping our promise to our towns.”

Sometimes what happens in Augusta, at the State House, seems far removed from what goes on in our communities. But this week, after about a month into the 2014 legislative session, the Maine Legislature moved forward with two major accomplishments—despite Governor LePage’s objections. We kept the state’s promise to fund Maine’s towns and cities; and, we overrode Governor LePage’s veto, in order to feed kids who are hungry.

troy jackson nmtGood Morning. This is State Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash.

As the Senate Majority Leader, I am proud that Democrats led on both of these critically important issues. I am, however, equally proud that many Republicans joined us in standing up for good policy and doing the right thing.

To many of us, ensuring that a kid who is hungry and comes from a poor family gets at least one meal a day during the summer is a no brainer. Especially when the cost of the food is paid for by the federal Department of Agriculture.

While some were trying to decide who to blame for hungry kids, and do nothing; others, including a third of the Senate Republicans and all of the Democrats stood up to this nonsense—and overrode the veto.

As my colleague Senator Lachowicz from Waterville said, “At a time when more families are struggling to make ends meet and more children are hungry, it is irresponsible and unconscionable of us not to do everything we can to make sure children in our communities get fed.”

Feeding hungry kids was not the only area where Governor LePage tried to stand in the way of getting things done for the people in our state.

For weeks, lawmakers have been working together to craft a plan to restore revenue sharing—which are the dollars promised by the state to Maine’s towns and cities to ensure towns can continue providing essential services and keep property taxes down.

Governor LePage has waged a crusade against keeping this promise—starting last year when his budget proposal completely eliminated the program. Lawmakers stood up to that and partially restored funding.

But Governor LePage’s attempts to keep raiding dollars from our towns and cities didn’t stop there. In December, Governor LePage doubled down on his threat to eliminate revenue sharing. He even went so far as to call the very dollars used to keep our police and fire departments operating, “welfare.”

And then, just a few days ago, Governor LePage issued a brand new threat: If lawmakers restored revenue sharing, he would hold back bond investments. This is not the first time he has threatened to hold Maine’s jobs hostage. Remember, he did so for the last three years.

What was peculiar this time, was that a mere 48 hours earlier, Governor LePage touted bonds as part of his economic development plan in his State of the State address. Regardless of the threats, a resounding number of lawmakers—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—stood up to these outbursts and did what was right for our towns across the state.

Even though Governor LePage has said that I can’t count, I can count to $40 million. And based on my math, the Legislature just restored $40 million to our towns. We kept our promise and we did the responsible thing for Maine’s property taxpayers.

Our work is not done—and thankfully we have another few months of session to work.

Before us will be issues like, how can we make college more affordable to Maine families? What kind of investments do Maine small businesses need and want? And what more can we do to keep energy costs down and renewable energy sources more abundant?

But perhaps the most fundamental issue before us will be, once again, standing up to Governor LePage’s political rhetoric and faulty math. We must do everything we can to expand health care for 70,000 Mainers who still do not have coverage. We have a plan—and the costs are picked up by the feds.

The time is now. The people of Maine know it—and many Republicans know that just like with the issues of child hunger and keeping our funding promise to Maine’s towns, expanding health care is the right thing to do.

The Legislature knows that actions speak louder than words. That’s why we have been keeping our promise to Maine people and why we will continue to do so.

Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a warm and safe weekend.

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Maine Legislature Overwhelmingly Pass LD 1762, Restoring $40M in Municipal Revenue Sharing

Posted on February 12, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee listen to testimony regarding LR 2721 (LD 1762) at public hearing.

Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee listen to testimony regarding LR 2721 (LD 1762) at public hearing.

Yesterday the 126th Maine Legislature took up LD 1762, “An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force”, which originally passed the House last Thursday by a 114-21 vote on its first reading. The debate at that time was at times contentious, with Republicans divided on the merits of the bill and understanding their votes could have ramifications come November.

LD1762 came up again yesterday first in the House, where a slew of amendments were tacked onto the bill and many GOP members standing to speak in opposition to it. One by one, the amendments were indefinitely postponed. Reactions from House Republicans:

    House Republican Leader Ken Fredette’s floor amendment would task the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management with finding spending reductions to equal the $40 million needed for fiscal year 2015.

    “The tax expenditure task force, which was responsible for closing this $40 million gap and was stacked with liberals, failed to complete its task,” said Rep. Fredette. “OPM, on the other hand, successfully completed its task of finding $35 million in spending cuts. My amendment would give the job to OPM since the majority Democrats and their task force have proven themselves incapable of balancing the budget in a responsible manner.”

    Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) introduced an amendment that would reduce welfare spending as an alternative to raiding the rainy day fund.

    “When I talk about reducing the size of state government, some people like to ask me, ‘what, specifically, would you cut?’ as if I won’t have an answer,” said Rep. Lockman on the House floor. “Well, here’s my answer. Here are 25 million answers. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg that is sinking Maine’s economic ship.”

    Rep. Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) introduced an amendment to give $7 million in property tax relief directly to needy seniors and pay for it with revenue sharing reductions to municipal government.

    “Democrats talk a big game about helping the needy and the elderly, but it’s clear now where their priorities are,” said Rep. Parry.

    Rep. Dean Cray (R-Palmyra) had a very specific spending cut alternative to raiding Maine’s rainy day fund. His amendment proposed eliminating green energy subsidies to replace $14 million in reductions to the rainy day fund.

For some context on the amendments and those offering them:

  • The cuts Rep. Fredette referred to via OPM were detailed in this earlier post from last fall and include cuts such as $1 million for vaccinations and $500k to Head Start, as well as many cuts to the Department of Corrections.
  • Rep. Lockman’s amendment would have taken another $25 million from DHHS’ ever-changing budget requirements. It is very challenging to view his proposal seriously, as he earlier was one of a group of Republicans who, unhappy with the LePage budget and its cuts to revenue sharing, held a press conference at the State House to present their own budget alternative:

    At the 4:00 mark, Lockman discusses new taxes to be levied against Maine’s wealthiest non-profits, but relabels them creatively as “fair share recycling fees”. One wonders how Maine’s largest hospitals and colleges, which top the list of the state’s wealthiest nonprofits, would react to such “fees”?

  • Rep. Parry’s amendment would still not address the municipal shortages of the communities tasked with providing services such as police, fire and public works to the very senior and needy citizens that his proposal was supposedly aimed to help. A reminder: Recently as many as 100 municipalities were represented at a public hearing regarding this bill and spoke of the harm that revenue sharing was doing to their communities.
  • As for Rep. Cray’s offering… let’s just say that “renewable energy” will never be an honest focus of the LePage administration.

Ultimately the original bill passed under the hammer (ie, no second roll call vote) and went immediately to the Senate. And there something interesting happened…

The Senate voted to pass the bill by a 33-2 margin, with the only two voting against, Senators Pat Flood and Dick Woodbury, having already declared that neither was running for re-election. Via Senate Democrat press release, here are statements from some of the members:

    Senate President Justin Alfond: “Towns across our state have financially stretched budgets. They came to us with a problem that needed to be solved. Towns across our state, regardless of political affiliation, wholeheartedly support this measure because they know the state should and must keep its promise. In this business, you have to stand up and be accountable to the property taxpayers of your town. Passing this measure and keeping our promise is the responsible thing to do.”

    Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee and LD 1762 co-sponsor:
    “Last year we all worked across the aisle to make a promise to our towns; we pledged our best effort. We made a promise to towns to ensure good schools, police to ensure safety, and skilled firefighters. Now is not the time to upend all of that work. Restoring these funds will ensure our towns don’t have to raise property taxes or further reduce essential services like public safety or education, or do both.”

    Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: “Once again, Governor LePage is threatening to hold Maine’s economy hostage if he doesn’t get his way. Today, the Senate sent a message that we will not be held hostage. We will stand up for our towns and cities and keep our funding promise.”

In December, Governor Paul LePage outraged many by labeling revenue sharing as “welfare” , a position he did not take as Waterville’s mayor in 2009. While LePage has indicated that he would either veto the bill or hold hostage $100 million in voter-approved bonds meant to pay for infrastructure projects were LD 1762 to pass, there has been no word yet from the second floor as to what comes next.

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