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Minority Republicans achieved some victories on tax relief 

The Legislature finally adjourned July 19, over a month after the June 16 deadline in statute, and months after Democrats pretended their work was done in March so that Republicans could be excluded from the traditional, bipartisan budget process.

This is State Representative Jack Ducharme of Madison proudly serving House District 111, Madison, Norridgewock and Solon with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

When Republicans were included in budget decisions, we were able to advocate to provide tax relief for all Mainer’s, not just special interest groups. 

With Republican persistence:

  • $150 million in collected tax dollars will be returned to the Maine people

Republicans pushed for $300 million in tax relief, but Appropriation Democrats would not agree to this; instead, a compromise was reached for the $150 million in tax relief for around 500,000 tax filers in the form of $300 checks to be delivered in December.

  • Increased the homestead reimbursement rate to municipalities

For years, municipalities have been covering the full cost of the state mandated homestead exemption.  Majority Democrats have finally agreed to incrementally increase the rate of reimbursement from 70% to 100% over the next several years, thus additionally supporting tax relief for Mainers.

  • Increased the municipal revenue sharing rate, above what was proposed by the Governor.

For years, state government has not met their agreement with municipalities to return 5% of tax revenue back to them.  Legislative Republicans pushed to honor the agreement with municipalities and reach the 5%, supporting further tax relief for Mainers.

  • Supported a $10,200 state income tax exemption for unemployed Mainers

Given the unprecedented loss of jobs and employers caused by the Governor’s forced shut down of businesses, Republicans supported the idea of holding those people harmless from the income tax because their job status was the direct result of government action. 

  • Provided tax conformity to prevent federal PPP loans from being taxed

The Governor proposed taxing the businesses that took PPP loans.  These loans were used to retain their employees and helped ensure thousands of Mainers were able to keep their job.  The Democrats proposal to collect a portion of these loans in taxes was unacceptable to Republicans and was in clear violation of the intent Senator Collins had when she wrote the bill that created the program.

  • Replenished recommended levels in the budget stabilization fund

After repeated Republican calls for more money in the state’s reserve fund, that fund now has $492 million set aside in case there is another emergency.

Republicans also stopped progressive policies that targeted farmers, local control of our schools and government overreach. 

There were a number of areas where Republicans and Democrats were able to reach agreement for Maine people.  

These included:

  • Investments in health care, mental health and substance abuse
  • Expanded broadband access 
  • Additional money for roads and bridges 
  • State funding more than 55% of education costs 
  • Increased funding for nursing Homes and direct care workers

  Overall, the partisan tone of this past session increased from previous sessions. 

When Democrats realized that any budget deal with Republicans would result in money being returned to Maine citizens, they decided to exclude them.  

They achieved this by utilizing a parliamentary tactic based in a false narrative that required pretending the legislature completed its work for the year on March 30. They then called a special session, worked over a month past the statutory June 16 adjournment date and carried over hundreds of bills for consideration in the next session meant to deal with emergency pieces of legislation. 

Rather than return tax dollars to the Maine people and acknowledge that people are receiving more of their own money back, Democrats are calling the Republican tax relief checks “Covid Disaster Relief Payments.”  Let’s be clear, this is not borrowed money. This is returning your money to you, rather than allowing government to spend it on new ongoing programs. 

Without Republican support, legislation also passed the legislature to reduce thresholds for trafficking narcotics and methamphetamines and penalties for the possession of those same drugs.

Maine families will pay an estimated $39 to $52 more a month on consumer goods because of a new state package recycling law.  Consumers are already paying more at grocery stores because the legislature eliminated plastic bags. 

Regarding the state budget, it has increased to $8.5 billion dollars after increasing 11% during Governor Mills first two years in office. 

Without Republican resistance over the last three years, it would be well north of $9 billion by now.  

The growth of government these past three years is alarming and, if unchecked, will restrain future economic growth.  

Republican efforts did reduce the potential future tax burden by nearly $300 million dollars, but the growth of government will also mean that people have less money to spend.

More troubling than the level of partisanship this session was national agenda-driven tone of some of our debates.

Some of the Legislature’s newest members seem to believe that institutional racism is Maine’s biggest problem.

There was less respect this session for Maine laws and members of our law enforcement community.

There were also attacks on the men and women putting food on our tables, Maine farmers, with some members of the Legislature labeling farming as being based in racism.

Despite the current political climate, Republicans were able to achieve some victories, but in order for us to turn things around, continued public awareness and involvement is needed.   

Republicans are working to support all Mainers by supporting policies that strengthen Maine’s economy and the ability for them to realize the American Dream.

We do not believe in picking winners and losers or treating others differently according to what group they belong too or identify with.  We believe in providing an environment that supports all individuals being able to succeed and achieve their goals.  It is our responsibility to ensure that the government is there to assist them but not stand in their way or provide disincentives, so they choose not to thrive on their own or in some other state.

This has been State Representative Jack Ducharme with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

We ask you to help us spread our message in a world where differing viewpoints are increasingly censored.   

Thank you for listening, subscribing, sharing, and following us on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Weekly Republican Radio Address – July 8, 2021

The Legislature recently passed another supplemental budget to address deficiencies in the partisan biennial budget passed last March. This time, it received bipartisan support thanks to public outcry from listeners like you.

Democrats were wary of ramming through yet another budget piece without input from Republicans who collectively represent over 400 Maine towns and cities.

This is State Representative Jon Connor of Lewiston with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

Maine benefits when both parties have a seat at the budget table and decide together how to allocate your tax money.

That was not the case in March, when Democrats broke precedent and used parliamentary maneuvers to exclude Republicans from the budget process.

To achieve this, a budget was passed by a simple majority vote, and then the Legislature adjourned on March 30, saying their work was finished for the year.

The Legislature met in person a handful of times, pretended their work was complete, then carried forward hundreds of bills.  

Public reaction was swift and strong.

Because of that public reaction, Democrats included Republican input to address the Governor’s change package totaling an additional $940 million.

The result was:

  • The state will fund more than 59% of education costs 
  • Increased funding for nursing Homes and direct care workers
  • Revenue sharing increases for cities and towns
  • Increasing homestead property tax reimbursements to cities and towns to promote property tax relief
  • Investments in health care, mental health and substance abuse
  • Expanding broadband access
  • Adding $60 million to the state’s “rainy day” reserve
  • Securing money for roads and bridges

Where Republican involvement made the most difference was in the area of tax relief.

Early on, Republicans issued their priorities, which included property and income tax relief. This included giving the same $10,200 income tax exemption to working people that was provided to the unemployed.

Unfortunately, majority Democrats rejected this proposal to provide tax relief for working people and retirees.

In the end, Democrats agreed to return $150 million of the additional $940 million in revenue to the people in the form of direct a $300 payment to tax filers.

This will go to over 500,000 year-round tax filers in Maine.

Let’s be clear, this is not borrowed money. This is returning money to you, rather than allowing government to spend it on new ongoing programs.

Republican budget involvement also ensured that overall spending is limited to $8.5 billion over two years instead of the $8.77 billion proposed by majority Democrats and the Governor.  

This budget is still substantially higher than Governor LePage’s last budget and higher than what Republicans would propose if given control of the legislature.

Republican efforts did reduce the potential future tax burden by nearly $300 million dollars.

In spite of the current political climate, Republicans were able to help shape the budget and return as much money as possible to you because of public opinion and involvement by people like you.  

With your help and support, our goal is to cut taxes and achieve far more in the future by getting government out of the way and putting Maine back on the path to prosperity.

This has been State Representative Jon Connor with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.

Thank you for listening, subscribing, sharing, and following us on Facebook and Instagram.

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 Budget compromise directs tax relief to pandemic workers

AUGUSTA- To achieve a bipartisan budget, appropriations committee Democrats have agreed to the Republican position of returning $150 million of taxpayer money back to Mainers who worked during the pandemic. Although it is less than the $300 million initially proposed by Republicans, this breakthrough generated unanimous support from Republican Appropriations Committee members. If approved by two-thirds of the full legislature, the budget would take effect immediately upon passage, not ninety days later. Since April, Republicans have insisted that the same $10,200 state income exemption given to unemployed Mainers be extended to those who worked during the pandemic.

“Mainers that worked during the pandemic should receive some type of acknowledgement and reward for their efforts,” said House Republicans Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “The goal of passing a bipartisan budget creates the opportunity to return $150 million back to an estimated 500,000 tax filers if this budget passes. Passage of this budget will deliver positive results for Mainers. It includes real property tax relief by increasing the Homestead Exemption reimbursement to municipalities over time to 100%, increased Revenue Sharing, and funding state and local school aid at 55%. The proposed budget also contains funding for nursing home and direct care workers, a top priority of ours.”

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Post Emergency Order Review Is Needed

Most people have heard that Governor Mills will allow her emergency order to expire after another two-week extension. The State of Civil Emergency has been in place for the last 15 months.

With that welcome news, the legislature should begin the process of reviewing the State’s response to COVID-19 and evaluate what worked and what did not.

This is Representative Will Tuell of East Machias with the Weekly Republican Radio Address. 

I am pleased that the State of Civil Emergency will finally be coming to an end; with every end comes a new beginning. As the Lead House Republican on the committee responsible for overseeing state and local government, we should begin the work of reviewing the state’s actions over the last 15 months. 

State government has operated in an unprecedented state of emergency. If a citizen legislature is to mean anything, it must properly review the state’s actions over the last year and a half. 

Unfortunately, this past week, Democrats voted to kill legislation that would have allowed such an audit to take place. 

LD 817, A Resolve to Establish the COVID-19 Review Commission, was defeated 77-68, with only a single Democrat voting for the review.

This proposed commission would have been fully bipartisan and charged with studying and collecting information about Maine’s response to COVID-19, including:

  1. State laws, rules and policies governing the State’s response, including executive orders;
  2. Contracts entered into related to executing the Governor’s emergency proclamation and related executive orders;
  3. Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention response, including testing and use of contact tracers;
  4. Policies and rules connected to COVID-19 implemented by state agencies;
  5. Federal, state and local intergovernmental coordination;
  6. Distribution of vaccines, including the use of public and private methods;
  7. Availability of medical equipment and supplies, including personal protective equipment;
  8. Interagency communication and information sharing;
  9. Scope of the Governor’s emergency powers, including review of emergency orders issued by the Governor, and accountability to other branches of government;
  10. Response of hospitals, nursing homes and other congregate settings;
  11. Economic relief policies;
  12. Overall health and economic impact on communities, including racial and ethnic minority populations, of COVID-19 infections and deaths and the state mitigation response;
  13. State and local government preparedness and response to executive orders related to the declared COVID-19 emergency;
  14. The preparedness and response of the federally recognized Indian tribes, nations and bands located within the State to the declared COVID-19 emergency; and
  15. Other matters related to the COVID-19 response as determined by the commission.

All of this to be reported back to the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government.

This is not about partisanship and political gamesmanship. 

This is about the future, understanding what worked well, what did not, and what could be done differently in the future.

Mainers forced to live in a State of Civil Emergency for a year and a half deserve a thorough, thoughtful review by their elected officials.

The partisan line preventing this review must be removed and both parties must work together going forward.

That is why the legislature should reconsider LD 817, and pass it, so that we can begin the work of overseeing Maine’s COVID response to identify any future changes that need to be made. 

The emergency may be drawing to a close, but the work of understanding what happened over the last 15 months, and what to do about it going forward, is just beginning.  

My Democrat colleagues in the House should join us in bringing back the legislation they voted down so that we can get to work for the people of Maine.

This has been Representative Will Tuell with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.

Thank you for listening, subscribing, sharing, and following us on Facebook and Instagram.

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May 28, 2021 – Weekly Republican Radio Address – Memorial Day Tribute

In facing our nation’s greatest threats, heroic men and women have answered the call to service. This weekend, Mainers will take part in remembering the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women who unfortunately did not make it home. 

Serving one’s country is among the most valiant of pursuits, and we are grateful for those who fell in the name of freedom and independence.

This is Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford. During this week’s Republican Radio Address, please join me in paying tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes. 

In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, we pay our respects to those Americans who “gave the last full measure of devotion to their country.” We are indebted to their sacrifice for it was their faith in our nation’s founding vision of liberty that we are free.

It was their immeasurable sense of patriotism and love of country, that penetrated the darkness of tyranny and oppression, which gave way for our nation’s beacon of hope to shine in every corner of the world. 

We remember our fallen for their heroism on the beaches of Normandy, in the mountains of Afghanistan, throughout the jungles of Vietnam, and in far off lands in between. Their memory live on in our communities and in our grateful hearts. 

We see the cost of freedom by the flags in our cemeteries, the rows of marble at Arlington, and the wreaths on headstones across the world. We can never repay our debt of gratitude; however, in an effort to honor our fallen not just today, but every day here after, we can answer our call to service by placing our hands over our hearts, flags on our porches, and treating all as brothers and sisters in this great experiment of self government and liberty. 

As proud Americans, we owe it to those who did not see if our flag was still over Fort McHenry, or raised on top of Iwo Jima, to continue the vision of preserving our nation that they dedicated their life to defend. They lost their lives so that our nation, and our ideals, may live. 

I hope that we take with us every day that the cost of freedom is never free, and may it serve as our reminder that it is our responsibility to carry on the faith in a free world that they left behind. 

This has been Republican Leader Dillingham with the Weekly Republican Radio Address. Thank you for listening. 

May we never forget and may God bless America. 

YOUTUBE LINK:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBkCPQLnHoU

Seasonal campers are double or triple taxed under current law

RENTED AUGUSTA CIVIC CENTER – House Democrats yesterday overwhelming rejected a proposal to provide tax relief to workers and others residing in seasonal campers. LD 611 – An Act To Exempt Long-Term Lodging from the 9 Percent Sales Tax on Lodging, Sponsored Rep. Shelley Rudnicki (R-Fairfield), proposed eliminating one of the taxes on individuals residing continuously in a tent or trailer space, for 90 days or more, in order to work during the summer season. Seasonal campers are currently subject to double or triple taxation under current law. “This is about lodging fairness for seasonal campers and workers contributing to the Maine economy,” said Rep. Shelley Rudnicki. “This tax discriminates against seasonal workers, retirees, families of modest means on vacation and makes them pay double or even triple what they should reasonably pay in taxes. Seasonal sites allow many who are not in the financial position to buy land and erect a camp which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Rep. Tom Skolfield (R- Weld) highlighted the absurdity of 9% taxation on seasonal campers. “If I check into a motel I will pay 9% tax, but I will get a set of sheets to lie on, a restroom, a little refrigerator, and perhaps other amenities, including breakfast. Contrast that with staying in a camper in a seasonal campground. I would be staying in a camper that I already paid state sales tax on, and then continue to pay annual registration fees, and excise taxes for the privilege of operating it on Maine roads. I will also pay a campground fee to a landowner who already pays property taxes on the land. The State of Maine then requires me to pay even more taxes on everything I already own and paid taxes on to purchase. I find that truly remarkable and unfair.”

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Buyback drug proposal is out of touch with the rest of the country

RENTED AUGUSTA CIVIC CENTER – House Democrats today supported a drug buyback proposal (LD 8 – An Act to Support Collection and Proper Disposal of Unwanted Drugs) that is out of touch with the rest of the country and will ultimately make prescription drugs more costly without being more effective. A Republican amendment designed to protect consumers and ensure a bipartisan approach was rejected along party lines.

“This will negatively impact prescription drug users in Maine by raising costs,” said Rep. Jeff Hanley (R-Pittston). “The Maine Sheriffs Association testified that Maine already has a sixteen county program that has ‘the highest collection rates per capita’ in the country. Rather than work with Republicans to craft a bipartisan solution that supports the most successful program in the country, for ensuring unused drugs are removed from homes, Democrats want to create parallel programs. These new regulations will do nothing to improve on what we already have and will raise costs that consumers will ultimately pay for prescription drugs. This unnecessary approach is also out of step with similar programs through the United States.”

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All Mainers sacrificed, all should benefit from the billions flowing to Maine

STATE HOUSE – Today, House and Senate Republicans held a formal press conference to urge the Mills Administration and majority democrats to use one-time monies to help all Maine citizens recover from the pandemic and to address chronically underfunded needs.

Recently revised revenue forecasts project that Maine will have an additional $940 million available over the next three years. That does not include $14 billion in federal aid Maine has received. This one-time opportunity can help individuals and their families recover financially from the pandemic if funds go back to the people directly. 

  • Republicans propose direct income tax relief– A $10,200 exemption for taxpayers that did not already receive one for unemployment income. This will especially help frontline and service workers who worked throughout the pandemic.
  • Republicans propose to increase the Homestead Exemption Reimbursement to Municipalities from 70% to 100%. This will ensure that homeowners receive direct relief without affecting municipal budgets. Many Mainers stayed in their homes for over a year. This will especially benefit retirees and seniors on fixed incomes.
  • Republicans want to increase Municipal Revenue Sharing from 3.75% to 5%. This will help address rising property tax rates. 

Republicans publicly unveiled a detailed, working list of budget priorities on May 3. The full list is available on the House Republican website.

Other priorities include proposals for health care and insurance, nursing home workers, veterans, economic development, public safety, the environment, natural resources, career and technical education, transportation infrastructure and front-line workers.

Link to Full Press Conference

Link to full list of Budget Priorities  

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Recently revised revenue forecasts mean that Maine will have an additional $940 million available over the next three years. That does not include $14 billion in federal aid Maine has received. 

Republicans are concerned that money will not go toward supporting those who worked during the pandemic or toward chronically underfunded state priorities. It also defies logic that the Governor is proposing to borrow an additional $140 million on top of that $940 million in increased revenues and the billions of dollars in federal aid Maine has and will receive.  

This is Representative Patrick Corey of Windham with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

In their haste to silence the minority, stifle debate and prevent compromise, Democrats passed a partial budget on party lines. What the people of Maine got was a sloppy document that is now in need of fixing in a budget sequel.

Examples of this shoddy work are numerous, but include:

  • Funding for 6 new Assistant Park Rangers. BUT no funding for ballistic vests, radios, uniforms, training, and insurance for Forest Rangers in the same Department.
  • Excluding funding to maintain helicopters necessary for saving lives.
  • Cut rates to Federal Qualified Healthcare centers, Rural Health Centers, Adult Family Care Homes in the second year of the budget.

Now with the Revenue Forecasting Commission projecting an additional $940 million in revenues to spend over the next three years Republicans have publicly detailed our budget priorities. With the Democrats passing a baseline budget filled with gaps because of their refusal to work with anyone it is time to come together and pass a budget that supports hard working Mainers who have endured a lot over the last 14 months.

To that end republicans are focused on helping all Maine citizens recover and prosper going forward, especially those who have worked non-stop during the pandemic to ensure we had access to essential services.  

Additional funds should go back to the people directly. The success of Maine workers and their families is what will allow Maine to recover and prosper in the months and years ahead.

  • Republicans propose direct income tax relief – A $10,200 exemption for taxpayers that did not already receive one for unemployment income.
  • Republicans propose to increase the Homestead Exemption Reimbursement to Municipalities from 70% to 100%. This will ensure that homeowners receive direct relief without affecting municipal budgets.
  • Republicans want to increase Municipal Revenue Sharing from 3.75% to 5%

In addition to this 10-2-5 plan House Republicans have published a full list of budget priorities online.

Shortly after Republicans announced these and other budget priorities, the Governor released her budget plan to spend the additional funds.  

There are many parts of the Governor’s plan that we can agree on. The only problem is that the constitutional budget process that traditionally leads to a bipartisan agreement was abandoned in March.

That means that the process that lead to an incomplete budget in March may once again leave Mainers behind.  Let’s have bipartisan support for direct tax relief necessary to aide all Mainers.  So far the call for this relief is being ignored by the Governor and her Democrat allies in the legislature.

Unfortunately this has been par for the course since March.  The public supports ensuring that Maine gets back on track and is not interested in spending huge amounts of money blindly.  Unfortunately the public has largely been cut out of the legislative process.

You who are interested in shaping state policy and voicing your thoughts and ideas to your elected members are denied entry to the State Capitol. Testimony on legislation can be provided online, but the rules are different for every committee and if you do not follow each of the 17 committees ever changing rules about when where and how you can testify you are likely be silenced by the majority party.  This legislative session has reduced dissenting views and restricted serious policy discussions from taking place. 

If you agree that everyone should share in direct relief and that money should go to chronically underfunded priorities, please contact the Governor’s office or Democrat legislators.  

House Republicans will continue to support those workers that have supported all of Maine throughout the pandemic and everyone affected by COVID. Maine is on the verge of squandering an opportunity to help Maine’s middle class recover and put the state back on solid financial footing all for the sake of partisan spending priorities. 

This has been Representative Patrick Corey with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.

Thank you for listening, subscribing, sharing, and following us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Follow the Science; Follow the New Federal CDC Guidance
Mainers have sacrificed a lot and remain committed to a safe reopening; Governor Mills should do the same  
STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY – House Republicans today called upon Governor Mills to fully conform to yesterday’s guidance from the Biden Administration and the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “For over a year, the Mills administration and Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, have urged Mainers to follow the science,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “Mainers have sacrificed a lot over the last fourteen months and have done what has been required of them. The Governor, and her advisors, have said that they believe in the latest science and public health protocols. They should fully adopt federal CDC guidance without delay.”  

May 13, 2021, the Governor and Administration officials publicly reaffirmed their commitment to the latest science, but stopped short of fully conforming to new federal CDC guidance. The Governor signaling that she is unlikely to completely follow federal CDC guidance is a break from what the Administration has previously said is guiding their policies:

“This change aligns with the latest science and makes sense for Maine at this stage, with more people getting vaccinated.” – Governor Janet Mills. 

“We’ve continuously adapted our public health protocols as the science evolves and as vaccination increasingly protects Maine people from COVID-19,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“These changes reflect the most recent science on how the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted,” said Nirav. D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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