AFA/ HHS Public Hearing LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget, Day 3 (VIDEOS)- Methadone, Mental Health

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Democrats responded via press release:

    The governor’s plan to make deep cuts in mental health services puts at-risk vulnerable Mainers by reducing the availability of vital services, increasing wait lists and pushing them toward crisis, according to testimony at public hearings before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.

    The governor’s proposed state budget would impose 10 percent across-the-board cuts in Medicaid behavioral and mental health services. The governor’s budget would also deal cuts of about 60 percent to some providers in the area of medication management, services now provided by psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to ensure that patients are complying with their regimens and not in danger of potentially dangerous drug complications.

    In his testimony, Tom McAdam, chief executive of Kennebec Behavioral Health, referred to a 1996 tragedy in Waterville in which a severely mentally ill man bludgeoned to death two elderly nuns and left two others severely injured. He described how the case galvanized mental health services in Maine.

    “I think it had a fairly major impact on the entire system. I think that it helped to bring resources into the community-based side. And frankly, many of us that are in the provider community are confused by some of the initiatives in this budget because they kind of run counter to what we thought our role and responsibility (were) as community providers,” McAdam said. “Really, next to housing, for people to be successful med management – access to med management – is important. And we already have an access issue, and that really is especially true for the kids.”

    Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to a budget that protects the most vulnerable Mainers.

    “The governor’s cuts would shred our safety net. They would have devastating effects on some of our most vulnerable Mainers – those grappling with severe mental illness – as well as their families and communities. Slashing mental health services to this extent has grave implications for public health and public safety in Maine. It’s beyond irresponsible to play games with people’s lives and public safety like this. The governor has presented us with a series of false choices. We do not need to pit one group against another,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, House chair of the budget-writing committee.

    “The facts presented today over hours of testimony show that we must protect mental health services. These drastic cuts would prevent Mainers with mental illness from getting needed care and push them toward crisis. Providing sufficient services is not only compassionate, it makes economic sense. Severely mentally ill people who cannot access the services they need often wind up in emergency rooms or in jail, much more expensive and traumatic experiences that can be avoided,” said Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, a member of the budget-writing committee.

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(UPDATED) Public Responds to LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 2): Municipal Revenue Sharing

Posted on February 19, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Here is a clip of Bangor’s Ben Sprague providing similar testimony to Appropriations against revenue sharing elimination in 2014.

The 127th Maine Legislature’s Appropriation and Financial Affairs standing committee on Wednesday heard more from the public on the second day of scheduled testimony on the FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal put forth by the LePage administration last month. Governor LePage and his new Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Director, Auburn Mayor Jonathon Labonte, held a public town hall in Westbrook last week to discuss the proposal.

AFA Committee member Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) asks a question of DAFS Commissioner Rosen, as Rep. Linda Sanborn, Sen. Linda Valentino, House Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo and Rep. John Martin look on.

AFA Committee member Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) asks a question of DAFS Commissioner Rosen, as Rep. Linda Sanborn, Sen. Linda Valentino, House Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo and Rep. John Martin look on.

Day 2 was focused on how the proposed elimination of municipal revenue sharing, a hot topic in the last legislative session, would adversely affect local budgets and force towns across the state to either cut services or raise property taxes. Many communities have already had to make drastic cuts due to the previous budget’s 32% revenue sharing slashes.

The following statements were part of a press release sent out by Maine House and Senate Democrats late Wednesday.

    Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations Committee: “The state cannot turn its back on local communities. Today we heard about the devastating impact that the elimination of these funds will have on schools, emergency services and property taxpayers, especially seniors trying to get by on fixed incomes and young families. We owe it to our towns and their residents and small businesses to protect these vital funds.”

    Appropriations Committee member Senator Linda Valentino (D-Saco): “We heard repeatedly from town officials across our state that the cuts to revenue sharing are detrimental and miss the mark. We should be looking for ways to reduce property taxes, not shift additional taxes on to homeowners. It was very disconcerting to hear from rural towns about the dire impact revenue sharing elimination would have on their communities since they have nowhere to turn like taxing non-profits as proposed by Governor LePage. No community should have to choose between underfunding and understaffing our public works or police departments in place of rising property taxes.”

    Winslow Town Councilor Ken Fletcher, a former lawmaker and LePage’s former energy chief, testified that the elimination of revenue sharing would result in the loss of approximately $940,000 – an amount that is greater that the town’s public works, police or fire budgets. He expressed concern about the increase in the property tax burden that would result from the loss of revenue sharing and the governor’s proposed elimination of the Homestead Exemption for those under 65.

    “It is generally accepted that property taxes are the most regressive of the three primary tax methods. Please do not place more of a burden on Maine homeowners by underfunding Revenue Sharing and eliminating the Homestead Exemption,”
    Fletcher said in his testimony.

    “Small rural communities like ours don’t have plush budgets. We don’t have administrators. We have no ‘rainy day’ funds,” Perry First Selectman Karen Raye said in written testimony presented to the committees. “People are angry at their increased property tax bills. This is only going to make the situation worse.”

Here are more statements from municipal employees around the state as reported by various Maine media sources:

    Brownville Town Manager Matthew Pineo: “There is no need to keep playing shell games (referencing LePage proposal to let towns tax large nonprofits). I’m in a poor community. We do not have money. I don’t have any taxable charities in my town.”

    Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments: ‘There’s already significant regional collaboration on emergency response, dispatch, solid waste management, and there has been for many years. (If revenue sharing is eliminated) Taxes will go up or services will go down. There is no padding left in rural municipal budgets.”

    Kathy Littlefield, chairwoman of Waldo (town) Board of Selectman: (Doing away with revenue sharing would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the town of Waldo, which is already grappling with past cuts and rising costs for education, snow removal and other services) “If another partnership, another trust, another promise is broken, there will be no going back. There are just way too many nails.”

    Republican Bangor City Councilor David S. Nealley: “Since when do you, as Republicans, talk about taking away from the producers and redistributing the income?”

    Vincent Frallicciardi, chairman of the Madawaska Board of Selectmen: (Eliminating revenue sharing would result in the loss of $750,000 and be) “detrimental to our survival.”

    Joseph Slocum, Belfast city manager: “Does anyone in here really think these officials aren’t responsive to the concerns of local residents?”

    Town of Union employee (name unknown): “Another 10-12 hours of this [hearing] and you’ll feel like my public works drivers.”

Many thanks to Bangor City Council’s Ben Sprague for sharing his testimony.

Sprague via Twitter also provided many quotes from those testifying:

Thursday marks the third day of public hearing, so more to follow.

———

RELATED:

Public Responds To LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 1)

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Public Responds to LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 1)

Posted on February 18, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Governor LePage rolls out FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal

Governor LePage rolls out FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal

Back in January, Maine Governor Paul LePage and members of his administration presented the FY 2016-2017 biennial budget proposal to the state. Since then, various members of the administration have met with the 127th Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs standing committee (with other committees, as applicable) on multiple occasions, met with the public, and held numerous press conferences to sway not just members of the public but also their own party to support the proposals.

Now, it is the public’s turn to speak up. Maine House Democrats shared the following summarized testimony presented to the committee on Tuesday.

    Adam Lee, Lee Auto Malls: “The idea of lowering the tax rate for the wealthiest members of society is misguided…When my taxes are lowered it leaves less to be distributed to the municipalities. I get a tax cut and everyone else in town gets to chip in to pay for it through higher property taxes. Doesn’t sound fair? It isn’t…. My business depends on a strong middle class. I sell good old fashioned Dodges, GMC trucks, Nissans, and used cars, as well as other brands. A strong middle class is not helped by tax breaks for the rich. Competitive rates, and tax breaks for the middle class is much more useful. A skilled workforce is the one of the single largest factors determining where a business locates. Invest in education, training, our University and community College System.”

    Veteran and Nurse Richard Bissell of Bangor: “I’m here to oppose these drastic cuts proposed by the Governor for wealthy Mainers and corporations, especially when those cuts come at the expense of the middle class and poor Mainers…Property taxes are an impossible cost for many Mainers, from young couples and families that are in their first home up to seniors try to age in their homes.”

    Small Business Owner Carson Lynch of Gorham Grind: “This plan would cut taxes for the very wealthy while effectively raising taxes on the lower and middle income Mainers. Not only is this morally wrong, it will hurt Maine small businesses and ship money out of state….My small business runs on very small margins. I’m not a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. A change to Maine’s tax code could make or break my business.”

    Clam Digger Skip Worcester of Hermon: “I’m here today because I am deeply concerned with the Governor’s proposed cuts to income and corporate taxes in Maine…Corporations are making record profits in Maine but they are not paying their fair share in taxes – their taxes have been less and less and their profits have been higher and higher, it’s the reverse for us middle and lower classes. Our wages have stayed practically the same while the cost of living, heating and eating have gone up.”

Among others who spoke to the committee was Davida Ammerman of Madison, whose testimony is below.

    Representative Rotundo, Senator Hamper, Representative Goode, and Senator McCormick, thank you for having me here today to speak with you.

    I am here today to ask you to oppose the cuts to corporate and income tax in the Governor’s proposed budget. With this proposal, we will see the divisions increase between rural areas that are not so affluent and able to carry the cost, am\nd more affluent ones that will. In a town like Madison where I live, the option to tax non-profits is not a viable source of revenue, forcing the town to increase property taxes to continue being viable.

    Without a fair and balanced budget we will be forcing older people to lose their homes, and rural town are going to have a hard time keeping up with basic services like roads, law enforcement, and schools. Being on fixed income, it is hard to be able to conceive of paying more in sales and property taxes, and for the increase in services that I will need as I age. The Governor’s proposal puts revenue at recession era levels, and it doesn’t add up so that means we are going to see more cuts at the state level in future years. This creates a huge amount of uncertainty for us aging Mainers- we don’t know what we can count on. I don’t know that I will be able to keep my house, or if I will be able to pass it on to my children as planned.

    On the other end this is going to be very hard and discouraging for young people in Maine as well. Our daughter, a single mom just barely making ends meet, would have to sell her house that she has worked so hard to get if her property taxes go, if the Homestead Exemption is cut for Mainers under 65, and she loses the chance to deduct her mortgage payment. Young kids that are already fighting student loans and low wages will lose their chance to get ahead. So many kids are just getting by already- this is making the American Dream even more unattainable.

    If we are going to start taxing non-profits and cutting so many programs in the state budget, how is that going to affect funding homeless shelters and other organizations providing services for people who are just barely getting by and depending on these services for life support?

    I hate to see the American Dream being put out of reach for so many of the population.

    Thank You.

Quinn Gormley of Portland was kind enough to share her prepared testimony as well:

    My name is Quinn Gormley. I’m currently an undergraduate student at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, but I grew up in Damariscotta, where my father, a bus driver, and my mother, the director of our local library, still live and work today.

    For most of my life, my family has proudly belonged to the working class in this state. Growing up, my parents taught me the value of a hard day’s work, as my mother pulled sixty or more hour weeks, often with little to no pay, to keep the doors of the library open, and as my dad, who for my entire life has had to balance three different jobs just to help us make ends meet, waking up at 5 in the morning to drive a school bus, and often working late into the evening to get everything done.

    During the recession we were lucky. A school always needs bus drivers, and the library is valued by our community, so my parents managed to keep their jobs. Many in our town were not so lucky. And I so, as I read the details of this new budget, I am concerned. I am concerned that this budget is shifting the burden onto Middle Class families and families like my own are not going to be able to afford it.

    As a student who is used to examining things critically, when I look at this budget, I see the governor’s tax cuts as forced false choices that prioritize income and estate tax cuts for Maine’s wealthiest individuals and large corporations at the expense of property tax relief for families like my own.

    Every dollar in tax cuts is a dollar that will have to be made up for with spending cuts. It just doesn’t make sense to prioritize tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations and leave the school bus drivers and librarians to fend for their own.

    As I navigate college with the hope to stay in Maine once I graduate, this budget does not seem to pave the way for a state with increased job growth, in contrast, states that have pursued this path in recent years have actually seen worse, not better, economic performance than neighboring states. They’ve had to cut state investments in education, and workforce training. I want to stay, work, and live in Maine but when my state pushes policies that hurt education, job training, and the middle class, I doubt that I can.

    This budget is the wrong path for Maine. It benefits a small percentage of Mainer’s, and the costs will be passed onto those hard working Mainers who are just trying to make it work. And so, I urge you; please oppose the cuts to corporate and income tax in this proposed budget. Thank you for your attention and all you do.

Democrats on the AFA committee later released their own statements:

    Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee: “We haven’t been getting the the full story about Governor LePage’s budget. I’m deeply concerned that the ratcheting down of state revenues in the out years will mean fewer dollars in the future for workforce development, education, and many of the very things businesses and workers say we need to succeed. We want a tax reform plan that is paid for now and in the future so we don’t jeopardize our support for Maine families, our schools, or workforce, or for our local firefighters and police.”

    Senator Linda Valentino (Saco): “I support tax reform but this budget sidelines Maine families at the expense of the wealthy and big corporations. We heard a lot of concerns from people today about the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, the Homestead exemption, and the property tax deduction. If these deductions are eliminated, it will jeopardize Maine’s economic recovery.”

Maine Center for Economic Policy released the following reactions to the budget proposal and information. MECEP economist Joel Johnson’s full testimony can be found here. But these portions jump out:

MECEP economist Joel Johnson speaks before joint AFA, Taxation committees

MECEP economist Joel Johnson speaks before joint AFA, Taxation committees

    The combined fiscal impact of these tax cuts in FY 2019 is about $677 million per year, according to Maine Revenue Services. That’s a tax cut equal to 19% of General Fund revenue forecast for that year. The sales tax increases in the Governor’s budget don’t cover the cost of that tax cut, and as a result, the state must cut spending by $266 million in FY 2019. That spending cut will grow into subsequent fiscal years as the corporate income tax cut fully phases in.

    Approximately $167 million of the governor’s proposed spending cuts will come in the form of the elimination of revenue sharing to towns and cities. Faced with a loss of revenue sharing and struggling to meet obligations to fund K-12 education, state and local governments will have to raise taxes and/or cut spending. That means higher taxes and/or fewer services like snowplowing, public safety, road maintenance, libraries, and parks. The governor’s proposal saves an additional $12 million by eliminating the homestead exemption for most Mainers.

    The governor’s proposal fails to specify the remaining $90 million in state spending cuts it encompasses. In fact, the Governor’s budget only specifies a two-year spending plan while proposing tax cuts that span multiple budget periods. The income and estate tax cuts proposed in the Governor’s budget, combined with revamped arbitrary limits on state appropriation growth, will prevent the state from reaching the statutorily-mandated goal of funding 55% of the cost of K-12 education in the state any time in the near future. Yet the Governor’s budget proposal includes a target of 55% for Fiscal Year 2017 and beyond. That is not a credible, achievable objective given the income and estate tax cuts included in a different section of the same budget proposal.

Other points raised by MECEP for consideration:

    1. The governor’s tax cuts aren’t paid for and are fiscally irresponsible. They set Maine up for future fiscal crises, which will lead to deep cuts to education, health care, job training, and other foundational components of a strong, sustainable economy.

    • By fiscal year 2019, the governor’s plan cuts income, estate, and corporate taxes by $690 million and raises sales and use taxes by $424 million. That leaves a shortfall of $266 million. The governor proposes to make up this shortfall, in part, by eliminating $167 million in state aid to towns for local public services. Legislators will have to make up the remaining balance by additional spending cuts beyond those that have been enacted over recent years.

    • The governor’s plan locks in recession-era levels of revenue putting state spending as a share of the economy at historic lows. That means state funding for education, health care, and other services will continue to fall behind even as the economy recovers. It also means that Maine will have virtually no capacity to absorb unanticipated future expenses or to maintain critical public investments when the next economic downturn occurs.

    2. The governor’s tax cuts force false choices and prioritize income and estate tax cuts for Maine’s wealthiest individuals and large corporations at the expense of property tax relief for middle-class Mainers.

    • Every dollar in tax cuts is a dollar that legislators will have to make up by either raising other taxes or with cuts in spending for education and other services. At a time when the state is already failing to fulfill its commitments to Maine’s students and communities it doesn’t make sense to place a higher priority on tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations. For example, eliminating the estate tax will cost over $37 million by fiscal year 2019 and benefit approximately 150 of the wealthiest estates. This potentially comes at the expense of making progress in funding K-12 education, supporting prescription drug assistance to low-income seniors, maintaining cost-effective health care prevention programs, or providing college scholarships to Maine’s future workers.

    • Part of the governor’s plan includes eliminating the Homestead Exemption for Maine residents under age 65 which is equivalent to raising property taxes between $120 and $160 for hundreds of thousands of Maine families. Additional property tax increases are likely for middle-class Mainers as communities are forced to pick up more of the costs of K-12 education, public safety, and road maintenance as called for in the governor’s budget.
    • While we don’t oppose cutting taxes, we believe it can be done in a way that doesn’t force false choices and that distributes the benefits more evenly across all income groups. Because this plan doesn’t maximize opportunities to export taxes to out-of-state visitors and part-year residents and places higher priority on tax cuts that deliver the greatest benefits to wealthy individuals and large corporations, it falls short in terms of securing adequate revenue and in improving the overall fairness of Maine’s tax system.

    3. The governor’s tax plan is a failed prescription for growing Maine’s economy.

    Note: As there will be weeks of hearings and work on the budget proposal, this will be part of a series of posts. This week’s testimonies will be broken up into daily installments of the highlights.

    ———

    RELATED:

  • Sifting Through The LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DAFS Commissioner Rosen Meets With AFA
  • Sifting Through The LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: LePage, MDOT Roll Out Over $430 Million In Projects
  • Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DACF Meets With AFA, AG Committees
  • Sifting Through The LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DHHS Meets With AFA, HHS.
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Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DHHS Meets With AFA, HHS

Posted on February 1, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

DSC_0121Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew along with Alec Porteous and Stephanie Nadeau met with the 127th Legislature’s Appropriations and HHS Committees for three hours on January 22 to discuss the administration’s FY 2016/17 biennial budget as it pertains to the state’s largest agency (Governor Paul LePage’s 2016-2017 Biennial General Fund Budget Proposal can be found here). The entire meeting is below, recorded in five clips.

From a DHHS press release:

    “For years, DHHS has come to the budget committee with news of massive shortfalls that send lawmakers scrambling,” said Commissioner Mayhew. “This time, it’s different. Under Governor LePage’s leadership, we have stabilized spending in the Medicaid program and are no longer managing to a crisis. Instead, the budget proposal tackles some of the Governor’s biggest priorities: nursing home funding, waitlists, primary care, and much more.”

    The DHHS budget proposal identifies significant savings to help fund important new initiatives, with a net request of just over $6 million for the FY 2016-2017 biennium-this out of a total Department General Fund budget of more than $2 billion.

    DSC_0123Among those initiatives are $24 million in additional Medicaid reimbursement funding for nursing homes; $46 million to move elderly, disabled, and mentally ill patients off of waitlists for services; $28 million to improve access to primary care providers; and $14 million to fulfill Maine’s obligation to mental health under the Consent Decree.

    Roughly $11 million in savings from a proposed reform to General Assistance reimbursement to municipalities will be directed specifically to fund services under Section 21 for disabled Mainers on waitlists.

    A total of $20 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) will be repurposed away from third-party advocacy organizations and directed to fund increased access to primary care providers for Medicaid recipients.

    After doubling in size, enrollment, and cost in the decade prior to Governor LePage’s first inauguration, Maine’s Medicaid program has since seen enrollment drop from a high of 354,000 in 2011 to 291,000 today. In 2011, 26 percent of Mainers were enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 18 percent of the national population. In 2014, Maine’s Medicaid enrollment matched the national average of 22 percent. “After years spent bailing out the sinking ship of Medicaid, we have finally charted a new course where spending on able-bodied adults is controlled and services for the elderly and disabled are prioritized,” added Commissioner Mayhew. “I am proud to be presenting this balanced budget to the Appropriations Committee on behalf of Governor LePage, whose tenacity and responsible priorities have gotten us where we are today.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

After the conclusion of the meeting, Daniel E. Wathen, Consent Decree Coordinator, met with the two committees to discuss multiple ongoing issues at Riverview Psychiatric Center and answer questions from legislators. The two clips of that meeting are below.

Part 1

Part 2

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Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DACF Meets With AFA, AG Committees

Posted on January 25, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

whitcombMaine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walter Whitcomb met before a joint meeting of the 127th Legislture’s standing Appropriations and Agricultural Committees on January 20th to discuss Governor LePage’s 2016/17 biennial budget’s impacts upon his department in a surprising overhaul of the department, including elimination of 25 Maine Forest Ranger positions, 12 of which are currently vacant, and creation of new law enforcement positions.

    Walter E. Whitcomb, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said in a statement that the budget “represents an important shift in public resources to provide more comprehensive forestry protection and better meet the wide range of forest management threats. It also addresses safety issues raised last year through a proposal to arm rangers.”

    Whitcomb said he participated in budget discussions and is comfortable with the direction his department may be headed.

    “I think what we’re causing to happen is an investigation of what we want our rangers to do,”
    Whitcomb said in an interview. “And I think we’re getting to that point … We want them to be doing more of those firefighter duties, and less of the chasing bad guys.”

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Incoming 127th Maine Legislature Picks Leaders (UPDATED w/ Statements)

Posted on November 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing

Senate President Mike Thibodeau (Waldo), Majority Leader Garrett Mason (Androscoggin) and Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

Last week, the Republicans in both legislative chambers of the Maine State House selected their leadership.

With Friday’s recount of Senate District 11 between Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Waldo and challenger Jonathan Fulford of Monroe concluding that the district re-elected the incumbent by a 135 vote margin, the make-up of the Senate Majority leadership team selected last week will be: Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing. Each issued statements:

Senate President Mike Thibodeau:“I cannot begin to express what this means to me. It is a true honor to be chosen by such an outstanding group of people to lead not only them, but the entire Maine Senate.

“At the same time, I recognize it is an awesome responsibility. The people of Maine spoke very clearly in this week’s election. They are demanding action on critical issues such as job creation, energy costs, and welfare reform. We cannot let them down. Delivering real results will take the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats to put their partisan differences aside and work in a collaborative manner on behalf of the people of Maine. It is what we were elected to do and we must rise to the challenge.”

Majority Leader Garrett Mason: “I am very honored to have earned the trust of my Republican colleagues who chose me to be the majority leader. I look forward to working with my fellow senators, members of the House of Representatives, and Governor LePage to find real solutions for the people of Maine.”

Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing: “I am looking forward to the opportunity to go to work on the agenda items that are most important to the citizens of Maine.”

As has been noted in the past, both Thibodeau and Cushing have long-standing ties to ALEC, as do a number of other returning Maine GOP senators and incoming Kim Rosen, wife of former State Senator Richard Rosen of Bucksport.

Over in the House, Republicans chose to retain 126th Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport to serve again in the 127th in that office and replace outgoing Alex Willette, who resigned to take a position with the LePage re-election campaign, with Rep. Eleanor Espling of New Gloucester.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves, , Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon

Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N. Berwick), Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan) and Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon (Freeport)

On Wednesday, Democrats held separate caucuses to select their leaders. The House Democrats had lost a few seats in the recently concluded elections, but managed to retain their majority.

While Speaker of the House Mark Eves was not challenged for his seat, the other two leadership positions went up to votes by the caucus, with Rep. Barry Hobbins going up against Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe for the Majority Leader spot last held by termed-out Rep. Seth Berry (Bowdoinham), and 126th freshmen Rep. Lori Lister Fowle (Vassalboro) taking on Rep. Sara Gideon (Freeport) for McCabe’s chair. Ultimately the body selected McCabe and Gideon to join Eves as their 127th Legislative leaders.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves: “It is an honor and privilege to lead our strong and historic 83 seat majority. With Election Day behind us, now is the time govern. We must come together with Governor LePage and our Republican colleagues to address the challenges we face as a state. We cannot allow the partisan battles of the past dictate our future.

“Too much is at stake for leaders to put their party ideology ahead of common sense solutions. Democrats and Republicans can see eye to eye on smart and strategic investments in our state, on property tax relief, on lowering energy costs and helping seniors and veterans. We must focus on areas of common ground, not conflict.”

Majority Leader Jeff McCabe: “We need to move Maine forward and do everything we can to improve the lives of Mainers. We must establish an economic message and policy that works statewide. The voters sent us a message on Election Day. They don’t care about party labels or partisan ideology. They care about government that works.”

Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon: “Now that these long and divisive campaigns are over, it’s time to show the people of Maine that we are about action, that Democrats will deliver while holding steadfast to our values, that Democrats own the idea of prosperity for everyone. We will work with all our strength to protect the values of Maine people: women’s economic security and basic rights, workers’ ability to organize, a clean and sustainable environment and the integrity of excellent public school systems.”

The Senate-elect Democrats, who saw their 18 majority shrink to a 15 seat minority last week, held a caucus Wednesday evening in Hallowell.

Democratic Senators congratulate Dawn Hill as being selected as Assistant Minority Leader. To her right is Senator Justin Alfond, who will be moving from the podium as exiting Senate President to serve as Minority Leader for the upcoming 127th legislative session.

Democratic Senators congratulate Dawn Hill as being selected as Assistant Minority Leader. To her right is Senator Justin Alfond, who will be moving from the podium as exiting Senate President to serve as Minority Leader for the upcoming 127th legislative session.

They chose outgoing Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland to serve as their Minority Leader in the upcoming 127th legislative session. Alfond is in his final term and served in the 125th Legislature as Assistant Minority Leader to then-Senator Barry Hobbins’ Minority Leader.

Senator Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who chaired the 126th Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and was honored as Emerge Maine’s Woman of the Year along with fellow AFA Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, was chosen to serve as Assistant Minority Leader for the next two years.

Minority Leader Senator Justin Alfond:“Even though, as Democrats, our political beliefs may be different from Paul LePage and Republicans in the Legislature, there are areas in which we agree–and we must build off of that common ground in order to serve the Maine people. I will extend my hand with to Governor LePage, Senate President-elect Thibodeau and others to find that common ground and forge the relationships needed to move ideas forward that work for Maine people.”

Asst Minority Leader Dawn Hill: (sent a message of listening to her fellow lawmakers to ensure that) “we all carry the distinct stories and values of our districts. Listening is how we define our plan and our purpose going forward.”

The 127th Legislature will be sworn into office on December 3 by Governor Paul LePage.

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2014 Maine Democratic Party Convention Videos: Day 2, 5/31/14 (Saturday)

Posted on June 2, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(With this next batch, I will be setting videos with released prepared speeches individually as well. Please note that a request was made to the Cain campaign and as of this morning, there has been no response yet- if the text of her speech is forwarded, hers also will be set as a stand-alone post.)

1. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap Addresses 2014 ME Dem Convention

2. Attorney General Janet Mills Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention

3. Androscoggin Chair Tom Reynolds Introduces Shenna Bellows for Senate at Convention

4. U.S. Senate Democratic Candidate Shenna Bellows Addresses Convention

5. Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston Introduces Emily Cain for Congress

6. Emily Cain for Congress Addresses Convention

7.Troy Jackson: Core Values” at 2014 Maine Democratic Convention

8. Rep. Diane Russell of Portland speaking in support of Troy Jackson for Congress

9. Sen. John Patrick of Rumford speaking in support of Troy Jackson for Congress

10. Troy Jackson for Congress Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention

11. Mike Michaud for Governor at 2014 Maine Democratic Party Convention

12. Mike Michaud for Governor addresses convention

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BREAKING: LePage Vetoes LD 1858, $32M Supplemental Budget Bill

Posted on April 25, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Late Friday news dump/ breaking news from Augusta, as Governor LePage vetoed LD 1858,“An Act To Achieve the Savings Required under Part F of the Biennial Budget and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law for Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015” moments ago.

The chairs of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) and Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) were quick to denounce the Governor’s decision in an issued joint statement:

Senator Dawn Hill and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, chairs of the legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, listen to testimony at a public hearing.

Senator Dawn Hill and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, listen to testimony at a public hearing.

    “For the past two years, Governor LePage has made himself irrelevant to the budget process and this veto letter only proves it. He demonstrates a lack of understanding for what this budget does and how government works. In fact, the very thing he calls a “gimmick” is actually a smart solution and it was proposed by members of his own party,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “I am confident this veto will be overridden. Nearly every lawmaker supported this budget and they will stand by their vote and stand up to another one of Governor LePage’s tantrums. It’s time for the people of Maine to have a real leader to work with.”

    The measure was passed unanimously in the Senate with a vote of 35 to 0 and by a vote of 133 to 8 in the House.


    “Democrats and Republicans worked collaboratively to craft a responsible and life-changing budget for our most vulnerable people with disabilities and for our seniors,”
    said Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “It’s no surprise to see the Governor veto the bipartisan measure. He has refused to participate in solving the state’s budget problems from day one. If he had items he wanted funded or didn’t like our approach, he should have worked with lawmakers.”

    Governor Paul LePage refused to propose a budget despite shortfalls at his Departments, refused to allow his commissioners to provide information to the budget committee in public, and provided inaccurate information on the budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services. LePage also never provided a funding source for his drug enforcement plan, which he claims was a top priority.

    The $32 million budget would:

    • Close a $17 million shortfall in the MaineCare program for fiscal year 2015
    • Provide $5 million to reduce and eliminate the Department of Health and Human Services’ wait lists for people with disabilities to get home care services
    • Increase reimbursement rates for nursing homes by $5 million and provides $2 million for the state’s court ordered mental health consent decree
    • Increase funds for safety and security at Riverview Psychiatric Center and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center
    • Invest in key education and workforce training programs, including $650,000 for the Bridge Year program, $300,000 in funding for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, and $750,000 for Head Start.

Veto letter here:

The bill will now be added with a ever-growing list of others and dealt with by the Legislature on May 1, aka “Veto Day”.

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Emerge Maine To Honor Senator Dawn Hill and Representative Peggy Rotundo as 2014 Women of the Year

Posted on March 20, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Via press release:

Emerge Maine To Honor Senator Dawn Hill and Representative Peggy Rotundo as 2014 Women of the Year
AFL­CIO organizer Sarah Bigney named 2014 Rising Star

Senator Dawn Hill and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, chairs of the legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, listen to testimony at a public hearing.

Senator Dawn Hill and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, listen to testimony at a public hearing.

Portland­­- Emerge Maine, the premier political training program for Maine Democratic women, has named State Senator Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick and State Representative Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston as the 2014 Women of the Year. Previous Emerge Women of the Year are Clerk of the House Millie MacFarland (2010), the Honorable Libby MItchell (2011), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (2012), and Attorney General Janet Mills (2013).

Senator Hill and Representative Rotundo chair the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, the state’s budget­writing committee. In an economically challenging and contentious political environment, they lead by example demonstrating a strong commitment to bipartisanship, working together, and civility in politics. Under their leadership, the Appropriations Committee unanimously recommended a bipartisan budget that was approved by more than two­ thirds of lawmakers in the House and the Senate during initial votes and again during subsequent votes to override Governor LePage’s veto of the budget.

    “Senator Hill and Representative Rotundo exemplify what it means to engage in civil discourse in politics,” said Jill Barkley, the Executive Director of Emerge Maine. “These two incredible women have worked together to create and maintain our state’s budget while fielding more than one funding crisis. They remain calm and committed to the best outcome for our state. We are thankful for their leadership.”

dawn hillSenator Hill, a non practicing attorney, is currently serving her second term as State Senator representing Eliot, Kittery, Ogunquit, South Berwick, and York. Prior to her time in the Senate, she served two terms in the State House representing York. In May 2008, she graduated from the prestigious “Leadership Maine,” a program of the Maine Development Foundation, in the Omicron Class.

Senator Hill is the founder and owner of It’s a Dog’s World, a large canine training and activity facility in southern Maine. She also serves on the board of directors for MMG Insurance of Presque Isle, Maine.

    “I’m honored to be named one of Emerge’s women of the year,” said Senator Hill. “It is an even greater honor to share this designation with all of the previous women named, who have worked tirelessly for our great state.”

peggy rotundoRepresentative Rotundo was first elected to the Legislature in 2000. She served four terms in the State Senate and is currently serving her third term in the State House representing part of the city of Lewiston. During her time in the Legislature, she has sponsored legislation that has created greater public access to government information, a cleaner environment, greater educational opportunities for all Maine people and better services for veterans and the elderly.

She has also led in creating bipartisan state budgets. Rep. Rotundo has won numerous awards for her work on these issues and for her work in creating civil and respectful public discourse. Prior to her service in the Legislature, she served on the Lewiston School Committee, which she chaired for four years.

Representative Rotundo helped found the Center for Service­ Learning at Bates College in Lewiston in 1995, which has become a nationally recognized program that connects Bates students to the community through service. She currently serves as the Director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives for the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships.

    “I am deeply honored to be recognized by Emerge Maine, which has done so much to encourage and support women interested in public service,” said Representative Rotundo. “We all stand on the shoulders of courageous women leaders who have gone before us. We honor their lives and service by encouraging and mentoring the next generation of great women leaders.”

Sarah Bigney and Sen. John Patrick (D-Rumford) at the State House.

Sarah Bigney and Sen. John Patrick (D-Rumford) at the State House.

Emerge Maine will also be honoring Rising Star Sarah Bigney of Hallowell. An Emerge alumna from the Class of 2009, Bigney is Director of Field and Member Mobilization at the Maine AFL­CIO where she advocates for workers’ rights and economic justice. Her work includes supporting the newly formed Maine Lobstering Union and recruiting and training union members to be candidates for the Legislature. She was named the 2014 “Mrs. Paul Bunyan” in her hometown of Bangor.

    “I’m humbled to be recognized by Emerge Maine. The training I completed with Emerge was such a terrific boost when I was first starting out working in politics,” said Bigney. “I greatly value the encouragement and support I receive from this powerful network of women leaders in public service in our state. Together we will make Maine a better place for working families to thrive.”

Emerge Maine is one of fourteen state Emerge programs across the country.

Emerge is committed to increasing the number of Democratic women in office, building a strong network of dedicated women leaders, and creating a pipeline of Democratic candidates at all levels of government. Emerge Maine has 140 alumnae, Emerge Maine alumnae make up ten percent of the House Democratic caucus, and there will be 20 Emerge Maine alumnae running for the State House in 2014.

Senator Hill, Representative Rotundo, and Bigney will be honored at the 2014 Woman of the Year reception Thursday, May 15, at the Senator Inn in Augusta.
###

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Governor LePage’s OPM Director Lays Out Nearly $34 Million Cuts To Balance State Budget

Posted on October 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Director of Office of Policy and Management former state senator Richard Rosen (R-Bucksport)

Director of Office of Policy and Management former state senator Richard Rosen (R-Bucksport)

As part of the biennial FY ’14-15 budget bill enacted in June that called for the Governor’s newly formed Office of Policy and Management department with finding $33,750,000 in cuts, OPM Director Richard Rosen presented a 115 page report before Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) last week. This is the first report by Rosen to the committee.

Among the cuts listed:

  • $1 million in the closure of the Maine Revenue Services’ Houlton office (Note: This closure has already occurred, resulting in 12 jobs lost).
  • $9.6 million in administrative expenses in cuts to education.
  • Nearly half a million dollars in HeadStart funding.
  • $1 million cut to vaccines for children and cuts to the state’s reimbursement to towns for General Assistance for struggling families.
  • $1 million in innovative technology investments at Maine Technology Institute.
  • Multiple Department of Corrections cuts/changes, including:
      -$1.1 million by reducing overtime.
      -$800k by cutting the Prisoner Boarding Account.
      -Allowing prisoners with 18 months left on their sentences, as opposed to current 12 months, to participate in work-release programs, creating an additional $85k in revenue.
      -Privatizing DOC’s kitchen staff, saving $374k.
  • Elimination of more than a dozen inactive state boards and commissions. Negligible savings.

    Here are some quick videos of Mr. Rosen addressing the committee, the first as he starts to lay out the cuts to the committee and the second including questions by AFA committee members:

    Democrats were critical of the cuts:

      “There are strong concerns that the administration’s proposed cuts will harm our state’s economy and Maine families,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York who also serves as the Senate chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee. “We are prepared to make hard decisions and know that we must work together on solutions. But these solutions must be strategic and smart, not harmful and regressive for our working families and our towns.”

      “This proposal is a ‘greatest hits’ list of rehashed ideas that have been rejected by both parties, It’s hard to believe this is a serious proposal.” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations committee. “Now it is our job to find proposals that work.”

    As required by the budget, $11 million of the proposed cuts would occur in fiscal year 2014 and do not require the approval of the Legislature. The remainder of the proposed cuts would occur in 2015 and would need to be approved by lawmakers when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

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