AUGUSTA — The Maine Democratic Party values investment in all Maine families.

Last week, legislative Democratic leaders unveiled the Opportunity Agenda, their alternative to Gov. LePage’s proposed budget. In doing so, they answered the question, “What does it mean to be a Democrat?” That’s a question we’ve been asked often at the Maine Democratic Party. It’s a question we’ve posed to Democratic voters during our recent “Values and Vision” public forums across the state. After taking the time to listen to hundreds of Maine Democrats, I can say that our Democratic vision is on display with this budget.

Democrats believe that when we do all we can to support and strengthen Maine families, our state thrives. We value economic opportunity for all, and we believe that a great public education option opens the door to success for all Maine people. Our values are reflected in the Opportunity Agenda in the form of the largest property tax cut in Maine’s history, a plan for better-paying jobs and a stronger economy, and more open doors and less debt for students.

What does Gov. LePage value? Gauging from his budget, he values tax cuts for the wealthy. That’s it. These tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent come at the expense of everyone else, from students to workers to disabled and elderly Mainers. The budget cuts are entirely unnecessary and seem intended to inflict as much harm as possible.

Gov. LePage wants us to believe that we can get people out of poverty by punishing them, and that Maine’s problems would disappear if only we eliminated the services meant to address them. Maine Democrats don’t buy that.

Not only does that line of thinking lack the care for our neighbors that makes Maine great, but it is also short-sighted. How does underfunding education help young Mainers find good work?

How does eliminating health insurance for nearly 20,000 working parents and 5,800 young adults help address the opioid crisis, which has already been exacerbated by a lack of affordable substance abuse treatment? Gov. LePage’s budget defies both compassion and common sense.

Maine Democrats will not allow Gov. LePage to give another massive tax break to the wealthiest Mainers on the backs of everyone else. The Opportunity Agenda lowers property taxes for working Mainers by increasing the homestead exemption and expanding the property tax fairness credit. It opens doors to a brighter future for our young people by fully funding public education, setting us on the path toward free community college, and offering student debt relief, forgiveness and refinancing. It increases veterans’ access to mental health care, and allots much-needed funds to combat the opioid epidemic.

And it does all of this without raising taxes. In short, coursing through the Opportunity Agenda is compassion for Maine’s people and hope for Maine’s future.

Maine Democrats believe it is our job to pull people together, not pit people against each other with false choices and unnecessary cuts – all to give tax breaks to those who need it least.

Our legislative Democratic leaders have heard from Mainers across the state who are opposed to the governor’s budget. The Maine Democratic Party has listened to voters describe in detail what they want their elected officials to prioritize through 2020 and beyond. Now, since Gov. LePage refuses to consider the best interests of his constituents, Maine Democrats are here to demand a budget that works for all Mainers, not just the wealthiest 1 percent. The people of Maine have been presented with two budgets: Gov. LePage’s proposed budget, and the Maine Democrats’ alternative.

What do you value? What is most important to your family? If you see your values reflected in the Opportunity Agenda, I encourage you to reach out to your representatives.

If there is a piece of the budget that is particularly important to you, tell your elected officials that you expect them to come out swinging for that portion.

Maine Democratic leaders heard from their constituents all over the state in opposition to Gov. LePage’s budget, and amplified those voices in the form of the Opportunity Agenda. Join us in taking a stand for our shared Maine values.

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