Thursday, December 5, 2013
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“It’s easy to say don’t cut. It’s hard work to make targeted, precise reductions,” said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.
The Associated Press
• Reduce funding to two programs that help senior citizens pay for their medications, which means about 1,500 Mainers will lose coverage. The change will make people with annual income exceeding $19,000 ineligible. That change also requires federal permission.
• Cut $2 million in state funding for Head Start, which will continue to receive more than $45 million in other state and federal funds.
Democrats asked how many children will be dropped from the program because of the cut. Republicans said they hope that administrative costs, not services to children, will be reduced.
Head Start officials said about 200 children will lose services.
During the Senate debate, Katz said Head Start is a federal program and the cut is only 7 percent of the total funding. "If Head Start can't serve the same population with a 7 percent cut, I'd be surprised," he said.
In the House, Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said the state has enough money to get through until next year. "This budget and these cuts are not necessary," she said. "There is no emergency."
The budget also revives some tax cuts that lawmakers set aside earlier this year. It increases the pension income tax exemption from $6,000 to $10,000 a year, gives an income tax exemption to active-duty military personnel for work outside the state, and provides a sales tax exemption for commercial wood harvesting, commercial greenhouse and nursery products.
All of the tax cuts will start July 1, 2013, so they will have no impact on the current budget.
Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, said the budget is an "attack on good, hard-working families."
"It's also an attack on our seniors," he said. "It takes away their access to life-saving prescription drugs."
Appropriations Committee Senate Chairman Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport, said despite all of the discussion about cuts, the state has increased funding for MaineCare by $323 million in the past two years. Maine, like all states, has had to cope with the loss of federal stimulus funds that helped pay for the program during the recession, he said.
In a statement released after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney, R-Springvale, said Republicans were elected to make tough decisions.
"Difficult choices need to be made, and failure to act is not an option," he said. "For years the Democrats have not proposed long-term solutions to this problem that threatens all state government functions."
State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org