Maine’s Congressional Delegation, Congressman Tom Allen and Mike Michaud join Governor John Baldacci for a press conference about the federal cuts to needed funding for the most in danger. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Winter 2005-2006

Article by Ramona du Houx

In Maine 178 people died of drug overdoses in 2005, and many of those deaths could have been prevented. For the first time in Maine’s history, deaths from drug overdoses surpassed the number of people killed in traffic accidents.

When the federal government cut into state and local drug enforcement funding, they helped to cut lives short.

“We’ve got a bad problem that is getting worse,” said Gov. John Baldacci. To hold back the tide from getting worse, the governor said his budget proposal includes a $640,000 increase in state funding for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and drug prosecutors, to make up for a 40 percent drop in federal money that has historically helped pay for those programs. That’s just one critical area the governor insists the state cover, because of the inadequate funding from the Bush administration’s budgets. Because the federal government did not step up to the plate and help with heating funds to any significant degree, the governor took independent action and secured money for oil from Venezuela, and he started the KeepME Warm fuel fund with $5 million from state revenues and donations.

More and more states have to find alternative sources to help their people. The values embodied in Maine do not reflect the values of the Bush administration. But, overall, “the state receives about 40 percent of its funding from the federal government,” said Professor Gabe of UMO.

“In addition to the impact of the Medicare Part D plan, the federal budget is also negatively impacting Maine in other areas. The Department of Health and Human Services is projecting a nearly $40 million reduction in various programs, due to provisions in the “Federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005,” said Becky Wyke, commissioner of finance. “Additionally, the president is again calling for the elimination of all funding for the federal grant that supports the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. The 2007 federal budget is also proposing the elimination of several other successful law enforcement programs, in addition to making deep cuts in health care. All of these federal cuts are being called for in order to pay for the president’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Maine’s supplemental budget proposed in January uses the projected revenue surplus of about $150 million to pay for needed programs proposed in the governor’s State of the State address, and to cover some of the federal budgets cuts.

Year after year the governor has faced drastic cuts to state funding, because of the Bush administration. On top of which Baldacci inherited a $1.2 billion revenue shortfall, left behind by the previous administration, when he came to office. Despite these challenges the governor never raised broad-based taxes; instead he streamlined state government, balanced the budget every year, and invested in the people of Maine, working with the Legislature.

As a result, Maine’s per capita debt levels are lower than the national average by 30 percent.

“Governor Baldacci and the Maine Legislature have increased state aid to education by tens of millions of dollars and provided property tax relief to thousands of Maine homeowners. They passed landmark legislation to create the state’s community college system and establish Dirigo Health,” said Congressman Tom Allen at a press conference at the state House with other leading democrats, where the federal budget cuts were outlined.

“This is in contrast to the Bush administration, which cut student loans, child support enforcement, foster care, and supplemental security income aid of the elderly and disabled.”

Congressman Tom Allen said a federal spending package advanced by the House and Senate would make $39 billion in cuts. President Bush’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting next Oct. 1st would make an additional $36 billion in cuts over five years.

“These cuts will affect REAL people. This is about real people in our communities that could suffer because of these cuts,” said Congressman Mike Michaud.

“Cutting help for the most vulnerable people in our country is wrong. Cutting job training and assistance is wrong. Cutting into heath-care assistance for seniors and veterans is the wrong way to go.”

Then there are the federally mandated programs that the federal government doesn’t pay for, putting the finical burden on state budgets. The “no child left behind act” wasn’t fully funded by the Bush administration and Medicare Part D has cost Maine more than it has helped.

“The president’s request to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent will create permanent, destructive deficits. It will mortgage our children’s future and undermine American competitiveness in the global economy. It will cripple our ability to invest in education, health care, clean air and water, and other priorities that are important to working families,” said Allen.

“While it may not be easy, given the president’s budget, we will continue to balance our budget here in Maine. We are fiscally responsible people,” said Sen. Peggy Rotundo.“

Cuts to the nation over five years:

 $35.9 billion in Medicare

$17.2 billion in Medicaid

The creation of private accounts with Social security

Complete elimination of  Micro-loan program

Cuts of 9 percent for community-oriented policing services

Reduces Veterans’ programs by $10.1 billion

$2.1 billion in 42 educational programs

Cuts to environmental protection and homeland security

A direct impact loss on Maine of $29 million for community development block grants