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Maine Politics

Maine's Budget Challenge - Column by Senate President Beth Edmonds
By Senator Beth Edmonds
Mar 2, 2008 - 11:12:45 PM

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For many years, Maine state budgets have been products of fiscal responsibility by everyone involved in the process - from the Governor who proposes them, to the committees of jurisdiction that hammer out details, to the Legislatures that approve final enactment. The Legislature has cut significantly in every proposed budget since 2002. The 2007 budget was actually smaller than the 2003 state budget, adjusted for inflation.

This year is like none in the last decade. Headlines in recent newspapers say recession is sweeping the country. This situation is certain to further decrease state sales tax revenues in the coming year according to revenue forecasters. The state budget proposed now shows a $190 million shortfall caused by our national economic slump.

In Maine we take care of each other. Our state budget should be a reflection of our shared values. The proposed supplemental budget proposal is not consistent with Maine's long-standing tradition of caring for our neighbors and community members.

The fabric of our communities would be weakened by cuts like these that would harm seniors, children, people with serious health problems, and victims of violence. They will cost communities more in the long run. Let's invest in protecting Maine people for the good of our communities.

As I've said before, after 7 years, we have cut all the fat. Now we are down to muscle and bone. If we cut too far, our communities will not be able to bounce back when the economy does improve. I can support a budget that includes some new revenue, draws on some of our "rainy day fund" and sustains meaningful human services. That doesn't even start to cover an additional $130 million in loss of Federal funds for communities in Maine.

The unilateral changes made by the Federal Center for Medicaid Services nationwide are slashing an estimated $130 million in Federal funds from community services support in Maine alone, cutting more services when we need them most. While our delegation in Washington is trying to delay the rules change, Maine Legislators cannot sit idle as Maine's most vulnerable - elders, foster children, and people in home based care and rehabilitation - are at risk of losing vital services. With the potential of more jobless, there will be additional need for Maine's safety net while revenue to sustain it decreases.

At the beginning of the last decade, Maine addressed its budget crunch through a combination of cuts, increased efficiencies, and temporary revenue increases. That bipartisan spirit brought Maine out of its fiscal emergency then. I want us all to pull together again, because together we can solve this problem and move Maine forward to a future of better financial stability.

I will do all I can to help this happen, as we proceed though this legislative session. Please contact me with your questions or comments at 287-1500 or senbeth.edmonds@legislature.maine.gov or visit the Senate website at www.senate.maine.gov.

Beth Edmonds is President of the Maine State Senate.


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