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Republican lawmakers (from left) HHS Committee Lead Rep. Deb Sanderson, House Republican Leader Ken Fredette, Assistant Leader Alex Willette, and Appropriations Committee Lead Rep. Kathy Chase, take questions from the press following Wednesday mornings session at the State House.
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For Immediate Release

Date: 01/08/14

2014 Session Should Focus on Reform

Maine must not return to the policies of the past

AUGUSTA - The Second Regular Session of the 126th Legislature began Wednesday at the State House. The First Regular Session, which last year ran from January to July, is dedicated to the bulk of legislation, including the biennial state budget. This year's shorter session, which is scheduled to run from Wednesday through April, is reserved for emergency legislation and bills carried over from last year.

However, many major issues will come before the Maine Legislature during this year's session, including keeping the state budget in balance, considering a series of welfare reform measures, and once again taking up the proposal to have the state pitch in to ObamaCare by expanding medical welfare to 70,000 more able-bodied adults.

"In all of the major issues to come before us this year, we must try to reform state government and do things differently than we have been for the past several decades," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette. "We must avoid a costly expansion of welfare under ObamaCare because past Medicaid expansions have under-delivered on promised benefits while racking up massive state debts and budget shortfalls. Maine taxpayers cannot be asked to pull more money out of their pockets to pay for ObamaCare and our classrooms and roads can't afford the cuts that would result."

"We are committed to working with our Democratic colleagues to keep the state budget in balance," added Rep. Fredette, "but we agree with the majority of Maine people who believe that state overspending—not tax levels—are the problem. Maine must put family budgets above state budgets and begin to contain the growth of government, not expand it."

The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will have to find over $20 million worth of spending cuts to keep the balance in budget, as mandated by the last biennial budget. Democrats thus far have rejected the spending reduction proposals that they asked the Office of Policy and Management to find, and have not come up with any of their own.

Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton added that welfare reform will be a major issue facing the legislature this year.

"After years of Democrats and their allies telling us that welfare abuse is only anecdotal, yesterday we saw data definitively confirming what most Mainers already know," said Rep. Willette. "Abuse of taxpayer-funded welfare benefits is widespread, and although we have come a long way thanks to Republican reforms, there is still a lot of work to be done. Republicans are committed to bringing accountability to our welfare system and we have introduced several bills to do exactly that."

"Maine Democrats first declared their war on poverty decades ago, and it's clear now that they've lost," he added, noting that welfare spending in Maine has doubled in the past 20 years without any change to the state's poverty rate. "It's time for a different approach; one that discourages dependency and looks out for the hardworking Maine taxpayers who for too long have been footing the bill of an out-of-control welfare state."

House Republicans are also encouraged by shifting opinions across the aisle on a range of issues including human trafficking, shelter for homeless veterans, and allowing military recruiters to wear their uniforms in schools.

"On a broad range of issues, I look forward to working together in a bipartisan manner to improve the lives of Maine people," added Republican Leader Ken Fredette.

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