Public opinion and lobbying by Republicans paved the way for a bipartisan Supplemental Budget.
This is House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.
This past week, the Legislature finally met in person at the Augusta Civic Center to take up pieces of legislation and pass a Supplemental Budget. It was the second time the full House and Senate have convened since they adjourned March 17, 2020, after the Governor issued her first Emergency Order.
For almost a year, House Republicans have been pushing for public and legislative involvement in the Governor’s coronavirus decisions.
This finally occurred with the passage of a bipartisan Supplemental Budget and this development was long overdue.
House Republicans, with the support of the people of Maine, were able to reverse Governor Mills’ plan to take an estimated $125 million from Maine businesses that received federal relief, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
To their credit, legislative Democrats eventually agreed with the public and Republicans, preventing $95 million in taxes on PPP being extracted from Maine employers trying to survive the pandemic and retain their workers.
The Supplemental Budget also included:
- More than $220 million in curtailments and efficiencies.
- Up to $10,200 in income tax exemption for unemployment compensation – keeping $47 million in Mainers pockets.
- Requiring legislative approval, by a majority vote, of any expenditure of discretionary federal COVID-19 funds proposed by the Governor.
- Transfers $8 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund (“Rainy Day Fund”)
- Makes available up to $9.7 million in retainer and supplemental payments to medical and behavioral health providers.
- Provides $2.5 million in funding to provide early college opportunities to public high school and home schooled students.
House Republicans were also successful in ensuring that, during future emergencies, the Governor does not have the authority to prevent those with pre-existing conditions from getting the medical treatment and surgeries they need.
Now our work turns to the Biennial Budget. House Republicans hope the bipartisan cooperation that led to the passage of the Supplemental Budget, continues, so that citizens from every corner of Maine will have their voices heard.
House Republicans believe all tax filers- our teachers, first responders, grocery store clerks, and the countless others that continued to ensure essential services were available for all of us should receive up to the $10,200 income tax exemption that was provided to unemployed Mainers in the Supplemental Budget.
We are pleased that our counterparts recognized the burden income tax imposes on Mainers trying to survive the economic fall out of the last year and hope they will join us in trying to ensure all tax filers can receive relief. We are “all in this together,” and Maine tax policy should reflect that.
We also believe the additional one-time money coming from the federal government should be limited to one-time expenses rather than funding new programs that would impact the next biennial budget. We should not burden future state budgets with items we cannot afford at this time.
Instead, let’s look to invest in expanding broadband now with these funds rather than borrowing money into the future to pay for this important investment.
It is also time we look at carrying out our work in-person at the State House and not the Augusta Civic Center. Schools are opening, municipal meetings are allowing the public inside, and gathering limits are being raised. It is time the legislature met regularly.
Our committee meetings should be in person in our building. The House and Senate should be meeting in their respective chambers. The burden placed on the public trying to engage their representative government, which is trying to function in absentia, is too high. We can open the State House with safety protocols to ensure a better functioning state legislature.
House Republicans believe citizens who have experienced hardships, due to the pandemic, need to have a voice in decisions that affect their everyday lives.
We will continue to push for public involvement in order to achieve solutions that benefit everyone, not just a few.
This has been House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.
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