MAINE'S BUDGET UPDATE:
The effects of the economic slowdown, due to the national economy and polices of the Bush administration, are taking a toll on Maine's economy. Gov. Baldacci introduced $190 Million in cuts to balance Maine's budget shortfall. UPDATE- MAJORITY OF THE CUTS APPROVED. Consolidation cuts go through while other cuts adjested after hearing public testamony
Governor Baldacci announcing a curtailment order to balance the budget
Article and photo by Ramona du Houx
On the first night of spring Governor John E. Baldacci applauded the work of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. Since the Governor introduced legislation that would balance the state’s budget by repairing a $190 million shortfall these committees have been working non-stop to come to an agreement that is beneficial to the people of Maine.
Taxes were not raised and the Budget Stabilization Fund was not raided.
“The budget work done by the Appropriations Committee is a significant accomplishment,” said Governor Baldacci “I think we all recognized that the working men and women of Maine couldn’t afford to see their burdens increased. At the same time, we needed to balance our priorities and make sure that we take care of our neighbors.”
The Appropriations Committee’s work followed the Governor's consolidation efforts and core democratic principles outlined in his supplemental budget.
“With this budget, we have brought State spending in line with our revenues, we’ve restructured government to make it smaller and more efficient, and we’ve taken major steps toward improving our financial position in future years,” said Governor Baldacci.
Baldacci had unveiled a budget change package on March 5, 2008, of $95million, on top of the supplemental budget, that would cut back planned expenditures including state aid to local schools.
Spending on local schools would be reduced by $34.1 million, although $11 million would not come directly from allocations to districts. Since then, the debate around the budget deliberations was centered on human services cuts. These cuts amounted to about $18 million of the $190million.
The total cuts to foster children, the elderly, mentally challanged, Medicaid recipients and higher education were adjusted to ensure they would not suffer after people’s testimony in committees and a mass demonstration by concerned citizens at the Capitol.
The people’s voices were heard and the appropriate changes made to the budget.
The majority of the $190 budget amendment was centered in consolidation efforts by the governor to cut back bureaucracy at all levels of government. In the end these cuts will benefit the state because they represent long term solutions, not quick fixes. One hundred state government jobs were cut.
“The Appropriations Committee has acted in a way that not only solves our short-term fiscal problems, but also puts us on a path of sustainability in the future,” said Governor Baldacci. “Working together, we have crafted a budget that protects the State’s most vulnerable, invests in higher education and mitigates the effects of reduced K-12 funding on classrooms.”
Much of the budget won bipartisan support in the committee.
As the Appropriations panel deliberated for another day, Democrats said they could cover the $190 million gap without broad-based tax increases. “With about 95 percent of the governor's proposals voted on, around 90 percent has been agreed to by members of both parties,” said House Speaker Glenn Cummings
In the end, however, Democrats and Republicans could not agree on everything.
The proposed budget amendments will now go to the Legislature for approval.