CAPE ELIZABETH – As a new governor and a new party take over in Augusta, members of the new minority party say they are unsure about what changes to expect in state government, and how those changes will impact Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and Scarborough.

State Sen. Larry Bliss and state representatives Jane Eberle and Cynthia Dill, all Democrats, told the Cape Elizabeth Town Council Monday that the information they have is as yet short on details.

“We don’t have any idea yet what some of the big issues will be because we haven’t seen anything substantive from leaders of the legislature or executive branches,” said Bliss, who represents Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and parts of Scarborough.

Later at the same meeting, councilors took a look ahead themselves, as they set their goals for 2011.

But first it was the state legislators who tried to give councilors an idea of what to expect over the next few months.

Eberle, who represents South Portland and Cape Elizabeth in the State House, said there is a big shift going on in Augusta, as many of the state agency posts have not yet been filled. This is the first time Republicans have controlled both parts of the Legislature in more than 30 years.

“I wish I could tell you what I see happening, but I just don’t know,” she told members of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council and school board.

Bliss said LePage and his fellow Republicans mentioned a number of things during the election cycle that could come to fruition, including education reform, which could include the elimination of the state’s Department of Education.

“We don’t know if that is viable, but it is something that the Republicans have talked about. It is certainly something that is on their platform and something they may push for,” Bliss said.

Rep. Cynthia Dill, who represents Cape Elizabeth, said just as in past years the budget is going to be a major challenge facing state legislators.

“The big issues, I think, is the budget because the budget is such a big issue every year,” she said.

Eberle agreed, saying, “With a new administration and new leadership, there may be a new approach [to the budget].”

Bliss said even though the exact budget numbers for the state are not yet known, there is going to have to be difficult choices made in terms of funding programs and services in the state.

“There will be substantial cuts in a number of programs because we have such a budget shortfall,” he said. “There will be cuts.”

“For a while we’ll have to be reactive, not proactive, until we can figure what’s coming down the pike,” Eberle said. “Then we can protect what’s best for Cape Elizabeth.

Whatever happens, Bliss said, it is important to remember that while their approaches differ, both Republicans and Democrats are after the same thing: seeing Maine prosper, improving schools and ensuring good jobs across the state.

As state legislators are still waiting to hear LePage’s priorities for the future of Maine, members of Cape Elizabeth Town Council will be firming up their goals for 2011.

The council spent the latter half of its workshop session Monday prioritizing more than 35 goals in four key areas: continuing initiatives, budget and financial decision-making and reporting, improve communication with local stakeholders, and make the town’s boards and commissions more effective.

Two of the top priorities for continuing initiatives are to implement aspects of the comprehensive plan that support the desire of residents for open space and excellent quality of life and work to increase the marketing of town entrepreneurial activities, including the Community Service Department, the town pool, the Portland Headlight and its museum and the Spurwink Church.

With a tough municipal and school budget process set to begin shortly, council members vowed to maintain quality services and programs while limiting spending to necessary amounts and implement pilot projects at Fort Williams Park, among other places, to test potential revenue streams. To that end, the council decided last month to begin charging Beach to Beacon $25,000 to use Fort Williams Park for the 10K road race.

The council also over the next year wants to enhance communication and collaboration with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, the Cape Elizabeth Farm Alliance, Thomas Memorial Library, Fort Williams Charitable Trust, the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation and other groups that seek to improve the quality of life in town. Just as they did Monday night, councilors want to meet with representatives in Augusta to exchange knowledge and views on issues impacting Cape Elizabeth and the state.

In order to enable boards and commissions to be more effective in their work, the council will continue to work with the boards in strengthening public knowledge of board activities and in enhancing public participation at meetings, as well as recognizing the contributions of board volunteers.

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