January 12, 2013

LePage budget proposal: Blueprint or massive tax shift?

Gov. LePage’s $6.2 billion two-year budget proposal draws heavy fire from Democrats; the House GOP leader says it calls for ‘right-sized government.’

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 2)

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Education Commissioner Steve Bowen, left, Sawin Millett, commissioner of administrative and financial services, listen as Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew speaks during a news conference on Friday in the Cabinet Room of the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Justin Alfond
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State Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, questions spending cuts outlined by the Appropriations Committee, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. The LePage administration on Friday presented a proposed $6.3 billion budget that eliminates more than 200 state positions, seeks to share the state's teacher retirement costs with local school districts and makes changes in the state welfare system to address an expected $40 million reduction in federal matches.

AP

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Related Documents

Governor LePage's 2014-2015 biennial budget briefing
An executive summary of the Governor's budget proposal.

Listen:

Gov. LePage's budget message (pre-recorded)

Budget press conference audio

On the web:

State of Maine: Governor LePage's Proposed Biennial Budget for 2014-2015

BUDGET AT A GLANCE

Highlights of Gov. Paul LePage's $6.2 billion, two-year budget proposal:

  • A two-year suspension of municipal revenue sharing to towns and cities, saving about $200 million.
  • Elimination of more than 200 positions in state government.
  • Reduction of the circuit breaker property-tax relief program, saving $73.4 million.
  • Reduction of state expenditures on teachers' retirement by making school districts contribute to the cost, saving $14 million.
  • Flat funding of aid to public school districts.
  • Reduction in spending on welfare and social programs, including the elimination of the state's drug care program for the elderly, saving nearly $52 million.

"Governor LePage created a false crisis through his tax breaks for the wealthy and now he's looking to make the middle class and the poor pay the bill with cuts to health care and local schools," said Mike Tipping of the Maine People's Alliance in a statement.

Democrats have dodged direct questions about whether repealing or freezing the tax cuts will be negotiated as part of a budget solution.

Berry, echoing the statements of other Democratic leaders, would say only that "everything is on the table."

LePage acknowledged that his budget is designed to protect the $400 million tax cut package.

He suspects that the new Democratic majority will try to roll back the reductions during the coming budget debate. LePage's Republican colleagues have defended the tax cuts on several fronts, saying tax relief is especially important because Congress eliminated a payroll tax cut in its "fiscal cliff" deal.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said he is pleased that the governor didn't add to the "current heavy tax burden on Maine citizens."

LePage's proposal sets the stage for a political debate that will rage over the next several months.

But the real negotiations will take place among lawmakers on the Legislature's Appropriations Committee. The budget-writing panel will begin reviewing the budget and, most likely, make significant changes.

Democrats have the majority, but their counterproposal will need enough Republican support to override LePage's veto power.

 

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

State House Bureau Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
smistler@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Education Commissioner Steve Bowen answers questions during a news conference on Friday January 11, 2013 in the Cabinet Room of the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Sawin Millett, the commissioner of administrative and financial services, speaks during a news conference on Friday January 11, 2013 in the Cabinet Room of the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage's budget officer Sawin Millett, center, briefs members of the news media on the governor's $6.2 billion budget proposal. DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew and education chief Steve Bowen are on the right.

Photo by Steve Mistler / Staff Writer



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