House Democratic Office
June 14, 2013
Contact: Ann Kim 287-1488, cell: 233-1838
REP. ROTUNDO: BIPARTISAN BUDGET REPRESENTS A TRUE COMPROMISE
Budget blunts property tax hike, funds schools and ensures seniors can pay for medicine
Lawmakers this week lived up to the biggest challenge of this legislative session. We enacted a bipartisan state budget that is a true compromise.
Good morning. Iím Representative Peggy Rotundo, the House chair of the stateís budget-writing committee.
The Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan budget. We achieved what many said was impossible given our divided government and our significant economic challenges.
It is not a Democratic budget or a Republican budget. It is not a conservative budget or a progressive budget.
It is a responsible budget built on collaboration and common ground. It mitigates a property tax shift to Maine people, funds our schools and ensure that our seniors can pay for their health care and medicine.
The members of the Appropriations Committee built a budget knowing that it was not possible to demand all or nothing.
In a divided government, you must be willing to give and make hard choices. In a divided government you must stay at the table even when you feel like walking away.
In a divided government, there are hard questions you have to ask yourself. Will you stay at the table? Will you seek common ground? Will you set party and ideology aside in order to meet your obligations to the people of Maine?
This is the choice each and every one of us at the State House had to make. It was not easy. We faced extreme pressures from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. But we were not sent here to represent our political parties. We were sent here to represent our constituents.
The people back home are tired of the partisanship. They want their government to work. When lawmakers approved this bipartisan budget, we showed that we stand with our constituents. We showed that even in a divided government, we can work together. We can collaborate even when we vigorously disagree.
This compromise budget achieves some of our most important goals. Democrats and Republicans can agree that it is far better than the proposal Governor LePage sent us.
The governor sent us a budget six months ago that shifted $400 million of the tax burden to local communities and their property taxpayers. That tax shift was going to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy that were passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature two years ago.
Our bipartisan budget blunts the massive property tax hikes in the governorís proposal. Our budget significantly reduces his cuts to communities. It restores the $125 million cut to the revenue sharing system between the state and municipalities. It also preserves one key property tax reduction measure and creates a tax fairness credit for another.
Our budget also restores funding to our schools. Lawmakers returned $32 million in cuts to our schools. We recognized that we need to help our classrooms be the best learning environments they can be, rather than undercutting those efforts.
Our budget also restores cuts to Drugs for the Elderly Ė a vital program that helps our seniors pay for their medicines and care. Our budget also reduces wait lists for enhanced specialized services for MaineCare patients with severe disabilities.
We restored these cuts by balancing painful cuts to programs and temporarily raising revenue.
The budget includes a temporary half-cent increase in the sales tax and a 1 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax. Both of these temporary measures end after two years.
A cap on deductions for the wealthy also makes the restorations possible. The cap on their income tax deductions will save $65 million.
Weíll also find savings by closing corporate loopholes. Lawmakers directed the state to identify $40 million in savings in that area.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted. But we overwhelmingly agreed that this budget is a responsible solution based on common ground.
Thank you for listening. Iím Representative Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston.