May 20, 2018
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Legislative panel holds hearing on LePage budget in Brewer

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Mark Eves
By Robert Long, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee will travel to Brewer on Monday to hold a public hearing on Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed $6.3 billion budget for the two-year cycle that begins July 1.

The hearing is scheduled to run from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday at Jeff’s Catering, 15 Littlefield Way in the East/West Industrial Park.

The committee will focus on LePage’s proposed budget and the effects it could have on municipal budgets and services. Democrats argue that the governor’s budget proposal, which includes a two-year suspension of municipal revenue sharing and major changes in the circuit breaker and homestead exemption property tax breaks, represents a $400 million tax shift to municipalities and property taxpayers.

“We know Brewer and the surrounding areas are particularly hard hit by the governor’s budget cuts,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, in a prepared statement. “The cost shift and property tax hike resulting from LePage’s budget will squeeze communities and families across our state.”

The Maine People’s Alliance, a liberal group that has campaigned against LePage’s policies, plans to hold a rally at 2:30 p.m. The group plans to present to the committee petitions that reflect opposition to LePage’s budget from residents of Penobscot, Aroostook, Piscataquis and Hancock counties.

The Maine Republican Party also put out an “action alert,” urging members to attend Monday’s hearing to argue against “more spending, more taxes and bigger government.”

Republicans counter that increasing municipal taxes is a local choice. In an email, David Sorensen, communications director for the Maine House Republicans, pointed to Bucksport’s exploration of cutting municipal department budgets by 15 percent as an example of how municipalities could adapt to the reduced availability of state aid.

“Nobody who benefits from state government programs wants to see them cut, but we want to hear from those people so that these tough decisions can also be informed decisions,” Sorensen told the Bangor Daily News on Monday. “When crafting this budget, Republicans won’t be thinking only of the next two years, but of the next two decades and two generations. We want state government to be sustainable and responsible; a government Mainers can be proud of.”

Monday’s hearing also will focus on LePage’s proposed changes to business equipment taxes and state and to public schools. Earlier this month, Maine business leaders laid out their opposition to the proposed changes during an Appropriations Committee hearing in the State House.

The Appropriations Committee has been holding hearings in the State House with other legislative committees on the biennial budget, which LePage’s commissioners released on Jan. 11. The Appropriations Committee will make adjustments to LePage’s budget, then send its recommendations to the full Legislature and the governor for approval.

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