For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee today voted unanimously to approve a supplemental budget to cover a $35.5 million revenue shortfall and an $87 million Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget overrun for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.
The budget presented to the Appropriations Committee by Governor LePage would have significantly trimmed Maine's welfare spending. Republican appropriators negotiated with Democrats to maintain many of the structural welfare reform measures contained in it, but several needed reforms were not realized. Overall, however, House Republicans were pleased to be able to find a solution to the budget gap that met the approval of both parties of the Legislature as well as the Governor.
"It says a lot that both parties and both branches were able to agree on a budget proposal in just a month or so," said Rep. Kathy Chase (R-Wells), House Republican Lead on the Appropriations Committee. "There will be a lot of important and contentious budget work over the coming months, and the agreement reached here bodes well for our prospects of getting that work done on time."
Republicans on the Committee had worked to implement the proposed cap on General Assistance cash welfare, but Democrats defended that program and retained unlimited funding for municipal welfare in the budget.
"We all want to make sure that Maine's most vulnerable are protected, but spending the resources required to support our overly-generous welfare system is unfair to all hardworking Mainers," said appropriator Rep. Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade).
Committee members were glad, however, that Democratic appropriators agreed not to cut funding for charter schools. The Democrats pursued roughly $5,000 in cuts to charter schools, claiming that fairness to public schools facing cuts required it. Democratic leadership left $328,000 in funding for private schools untouched, however, leading many to believe that the proposal to cut charter schools was driven not by fairness but by ideological opposition to their existence.
"Charter schools are a crucial part of education reform in Maine, and Republicans feel strongly about expanding that opportunity for Maine children, not cutting it back," said House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette (R-Newport). "With this budget, we avoided gridlock while standing firm on our principles of less welfare and better education. Now it's time to move on to design a budget and pass a hospital debt plan that creates jobs for Maine people."
David Sorensen, Communications Director
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793