Senate Republican Radio Address – 7-19-19
Through irresponsible spending, legislative sleight of hand, and an unchecked ability to pass whatever laws they choose, Democrats are using their new majority in state government to make Maine a place few of us will recognize.
Hello, this is Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake of Androscoggin County. Over the last eight years, Republicans in Augusta restrained Democrats’ ability to spend irresponsibly. Now, Democrats are making up for lost time, by spending every dollar they can find and some they can’t.
The biennial budget passed last month is a blueprint for spending recklessly, regardless of the consequences. It spends $185 million from last year’s surplus and another $50 million from the Rainy Day Fund, which is supposed to be reserved for poor economic times. Does anyone in Maine believe the state is in the midst of poor economic times?
Democrats claim that the budget is balanced, but it is anything but. It relies on projections of state revenues that are far more rosy than realistic.
State revenues grew by 5% this year, but they are projected to grow by less than 1% next year. Despite this fiscal reality, the new budget will spend 11% more than the previous budget, even though the cost of things rose by only 1.7%.
This explosion of state spending is simply not sustainable. There is no guarantee that another year will see another record surplus, or that the economy will continue to grow at the same tremendous rate it has been growing.
As if this were not enough spending of your tax dollars, Democrats proposed another nearly quarter of a billion dollars in borrowing, so they could spend even more, until Republicans said no.
When that failed, they began stripping the fiscal notes off of bills—that’s the estimate of each bill’s cost to the budget—so that they could pass more spending measures without having to find the money to cover them.
These new laws will cost state taxpayers millions in the years to come; but at present, there is no way to pay for them. In all, there were over a hundred such bills that either had no funding, or represented an unfunded mandate to local schools and communities.
For example, Democrats passed a bill that allowed the University System to borrow $130 million but allocated no money to make the payments on this debt.
Another bill established a pilot program for substance abuse in Washington County, but allocated no money for it.
A new law allowing DHHS to contract for services for brain injuries passed with no funding, despite the fact that, according to the fiscal note, the costs of this program “could lead to other current services receiving less funding.”
Another new law increases the amount DHHS pays to support “medically monitored crisis support” but allocated no money to pay for the increased payments. DHHS is now required to make these larger payments beginning this year, but it was given no money to do so.
Unfortunately, the budget situation may get even worse come January. Without any check on their ability to spend your tax dollars, Democrats can introduce a host of new spending bills, even though the budget is already set in law. This will be on top of whatever action they choose to take on the 100-plus bills that the Appropriations Committee carried over from this past session which totaled hundreds of millions more.
During the last eight years, Republican policies led to nation-leading wage growth, huge government surpluses, and the longest period of record-low unemployment in Maine’s history.
In just six months, Democrats have shown that fiscal responsibility is not one of the things that they value in state government.
Our economy, and particularly Maine workers, have already begun to suffer because of it, and it will likely get much worse.