January 10, 2013

State House: Democrats unveil legislative agenda

But with looming problems, including two projected statewide budget shortfalls, party leaders are vague on policy specifics.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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State Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, president of the Maine Senate.

Contributed photo

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Katz, the Republican leader, said it is a mistake to make policy based on anecdotal information. But he also said he would be open to working with Democrats to smooth out rates and improve the law.

“There are clearly businesses that have seen increases in premiums,” Katz said. “The challenge for us is how you deal with those rough edges.”

The Democratic leaders also said they want to fix crumbling roads and bridges and improve research and development, investments that they said would create jobs.

Leaders were mum on what form that may take, however. LePage has refused to issue certain voter-approved bonds, a common vehicle for transportation spending and providing research and development money for universities and labs.

Assistant House Republican Leader Alexander Willette, R-Mapleton, accused Democrats of being “wishy-washy.”

“It was funny. I saw the press release and it said, 'We’re going to release our agenda,’ ” Willette said. “I didn’t really hear any agenda.”

Berry, the Democratic House Majority Leader, said the governor must submit his budget proposal before specifics are talked about. “Everything’s on the table” when it comes to taxes, he said.

Berry did hint at opposition if LePage comes back with a similar tax proposal to one passed in 2011 that was opposed by many Democrats who called it tax cuts for the rich. The 2011 package included raising the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million, which benefited wealthier taxpayers, but it also removed any tax burden for around 70,000 low-income Mainers.

“If the same proposals are voiced again, I think you’re likely to see a push back from Maine people,” Berry said. “It’s the people’s voice that comes first in this process.”

But LePage took issue with that at the end of a press conference in his State House office Wednesday.

“The Maine people are going to rebel? I’ll bet him $1,000 in cash that Maine people will not rebel against a tax cut,” the governor said. “And if he thinks they’re going to rebel against me, that rebellion I’ll take.”


State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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