It was a sometimes frustrating truth of the most recent legislative session that we were operating in a divided government. One benefit of divided government, however, is that lawmakers must compromise and reach across party lines to get work done this year.

Yes, it’s true ”“ in a compromise nobody gets everything they want. However, in a partisan setting that can often be a good thing. This year, especially where the budget is concerned, I think Mainers came out on top.

Half a million Mainers will see an income tax cut from the biennial budget that was passed in the Legislature. Mainers will see their standard deduction nearly double, and retain the itemized deductions that are so important for lowering the tax burden on those who pay a mortgage, have healthcare expenses or make charitable donations. Additionally, property owners will be paying less in taxes thanks to an increase in the homestead exemption.

Veterans will no longer have to pay an income tax on their pensions, and families who are land rich but cash poor will benefit from a reduced estate tax. The estate tax decrease will be especially beneficial to folks who own farms or run family businesses and want to pass them down to their children or grandchildren. Family-run establishments are an essential part of Maine’s heritage and economy, and we should be offering them tax incentives to continue operating in the state.

An important piece of welfare reform was also included in the budget. Cities like Portland will no longer be able to take advantage of the state reimbursement formula for general assistance, as all municipalities will now receive a flat 70-percent reimbursement. Unfortunately, as I went into a bit in my last column, divided government did prevent a number of other reforms from passing. However, I am pleased with this step forward, and will keep working for other reforms.

Importantly, the budget also adjusts spending priorities to ensure people who need care the most are able to get it. Nursing homes will see a $16 million funding increase. Another $16.2 million is allotted to help clear waitlists for people with intellectual disabilities and brain injuries. Those are exactly the types of priorities we should be spending money on, and I’m pleased to say we were able to increase that funding without increasing the sales tax.

This budget compromise was reached after months of public hearings in front of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, and tough negotiations by the committee members. Ultimately, the committee could not reach a unanimous accord, and the four members of legislative leadership ”“ Democrat and Republican, House and Senate ”“ worked out the final details of the compromise. The items they were working on comprised about 10 pages of the nearly 700 page budget document.

Overall, this budget had a lot to like. The day we voted on whether or not to sustain the veto, we were hours away from a state shutdown. With tax reductions, positive welfare reform, and funds directed to areas they were most needed, I saw no reason to shut down the government and voted in favor of the budget compromise.

As always, if you’d like to discuss the budget or any other issue please be in touch at either: [email protected] or 432-5643.

— Sen. David Woodsome represents Senate District 33 which includes Cornish, Limerick, Newfield, Parsonsfield, Sanford, Shapleigh and Waterboro.

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