Since winning the majority in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans have been hard at work leading the charge to put Maine on a stronger footing for creating and retaining jobs and putting the state in a better position for economic recovery.
At this point in the legislative session, in keeping with the nature of a part-time citizen Legislature, most of the work is still being done in committees, with bills moving to the House and Senate floors during the final weeks of the session.
For a variety of reasons, the media often focuses on obscure side issues like the resolve to designate the whoopie pie as the state treat. But the primary focus of the Legislature is the serious ongoing work of committees hammering out the details of bills to fulfill the GOP pledge to change the culture of state government and make Maine more conducive to job-creation and prosperity.
At the outset of the new Legislature, we adopted a Republican proposal to combine the former Labor Committee and the former Business, Research and Economic Development Committee into one new committee that brings together both business and labor issues. We did so because we recognize that business cannot succeed without workers, and vice versa. The new committee has made it possible for issues of mutual concern to be considered in context, and even former critics now acknowledge it works well.
Likewise, Maine’s new Republican majority is making long-needed changes to a range of issues affecting our state’s economy. For example:
- Majority Republicans on the Taxation Committee approved a $203 million tax cut to benefit Maine’s working families, small businesses, farmers and fishermen.
- After holding public hearings across Maine and a number of productive work sessions, the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform this week unanimously approved LD 1, a bill initiated by House Speaker Bob Nutting and me. The result is a thoughtful, balanced and wide-ranging plan to reduce the job-crushing regulatory burden on Maine businesses.
- The GOP-controlled Legislature has unanimously enacted two supplemental budgets, correcting fiscal problems at DHHS and fulfilling our pledge to pay Maine’s hospitals the unpaid debt run up under years of Democratic control.
- The House of Representatives has given preliminary approval to a measure that will, at long last, encourage more choice and competition to rein in Maine’s runaway health insurance costs, while making insurance affordable for the chronically ill and those with pre-existing conditions through a guaranteed access reinsurance program.
- The Appropriations Committee is working on Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget proposal that, even in these difficult times, increases state funding for K-12 education, and avoids cuts to higher education, and keeps vital services in place for our elderly, disabled and those suffering with mental illness.
- Appropriators are also working on the governor’s proposal to address the long-ignored unfunded liability in the state pension system, in order to ensure that the system will be there for those who depend on it – and that future costs do not consume the state budget in a way that will undermine public funding for education, health care, roads and other vital state programs and services.
- Under Republican leadership, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee has bolstered transparency by aggressively investigating serious financial misdeeds at the Maine Turnpike Authority and referred the matter to the attorney general for a criminal investigation.
Years of Democratic control left Maine ranked 50th in the nation for business and career opportunities, and the second-worst state in the nation for making a living. The impact of decades of failed policies cannot be reversed overnight, but the new Republican majority in Augusta is moving Maine in a positive direction.
Maine Republicans pledged that, if voters gave us the opportunity to lead, we would work to create a state government that is caring, responsible, efficient, affordable, transparent and effective.
That pledge guides us each and every day as we work to chart a new course. When the work of the 125th Legislature comes to a close next year, I’m confident Mainers will see that their votes last November will help to make Maine a place that values prosperity, opportunity and success.
Kevin L. Raye of Perry is president of the Maine Senate.