Members of the Legislature gave overwhelming approval to a 2 year supplemental budget with strong bipartisan support. The achievement is noteworthy not only because the budget fills a significant number of gaps created by reduced funding from Washington, but also because Legislators were able to set aside partisan differences – often not easy in an election year – and pass a budget that meets our obligations to Maine citizens in a sound, fiscally responsible manner.
|Governor John Baldacci|
As I began to put together this budget more than four months ago, it was clear that we were facing pressures from various fronts: dramatic reductions from Washington left Mainers facing the possibility of increased prescription drug costs, the complete elimination of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and massive reductions to Maine’s Juvenile Drug Court; increased inflationary pressures required an additional $42m in funding for Maine’s k-12 schools; litigation from the Big Tobacco companies put nearly $18m in tobacco settlement dollars at risk; and of course it is an election year.
Despite these many obstacles, Democrats, Republicans, Green and Independents set aside their differences and worked to produce a package that Maine could be proud of. Our collective work should serve as a model for our representatives in Washington where partisanship often rules the day.
This budget is one we can be proud of. It invests in our economy by targeting funds to a variety of sectors in our economy; provides nearly $54m in state and federal funds for Maine hospitals; eliminates more than 145 positions in an effort to continue our efforts to streamline state government, transfers $15m to the Department of Transportation to improve Maine’s roads and bridges; and sets aside $29m in the state’s savings account – bringing the balance of our reserves to more than $100m.
Although this Legislative Session is nearing conclusion, there is still a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. I’m hopeful that the cooperation and goodwill that was created during these negotiations will continue throughout the remainder of the Session. This budget is testament to what can occur in Maine when the good of the people is goal number one."