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For Immediate Release

Date: 07/17/13

Perennial Raiding of Oil Cleanup Fund Symptomatic of Budget's Crowding-Out Effect

House Republicans call for prioritization, reigning in of runaway welfare spending

AUGUSTA - In the wake of the tragedy at Lac-Megantic, news outlets have pointed to Maine's oil cleanup fund and highlighted nearly $1 million worth of raids to it by politicians attempting to balance the state budget. In fiscal years 2004 to 2011, $989,716 was swept from the Coastal and Inland Surface Oil Cleanup Fund and put into the state's General Fund. No funds were swept in fiscal years 2012 or 2013.

Overall, from fiscal years 2004 to 2013, $7,346,314 was swept from various Department of Environmental Protection dedicated funds into the state's General Fund to shore up the state's budget (please see attached).

"This unfortunate trend is a symptom of the unsustainable growth of our state's welfare system," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "The more welfare spending grows, the harder we have to look to find the money to pay for it, and too often, essential governmental services like oil cleanup pay the price."

According to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, Maine ranks second in the nation for welfare spending as a percentage of overall state spending, third for number of households on TANF cash welfare, second for food stamps, and third for Medicaid enrollment. Maine's Medicaid program, MaineCare, has almost doubled in size in the past 15 years, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Maine likely would have climbed that ranking had it adopted the welfare expansion proposal introduced by Democrats and defeated by Governor LePage and Republican lawmakers—an expansion that would have added 70,000 Mainers to the rolls and eventually cost the state an estimated $75 million per year, according to DHHS. DHHS now consumes nearly half of the state's $6.3 billion biennial budget.

"I call it the crowding-out effect," said Fredette. "The more DHHS grows, the less money we have for the basics: roads, law enforcement, and disaster relief. Government should take care of some things first and not get its priorities out of whack. Unfortunately, over the years, that's exactly what's happened. We shouldn't have to borrow money to fix our roads, and we shouldn't have to raid dedicated funds for disaster relief, but that's the position politicians have put themselves in."

"The only way to really reverse the trend is to tackle runaway spending at DHHS," said Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton. "We were able to do some of that in the Republican-controlled legislature of 2011-2012, but it wasn't enough. This year, we've tried to do it again, but Democrats have shot down almost every meaningful welfare reform proposal to come up. That is unsustainable and unacceptable."

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Contact:
David Sorensen
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793