Hello, I am Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake.
Hard as it may be to believe with all of the bad news we hear lately, Maine’s economy is stronger than you might think. Years of tremendous growth and prosperity before COVID arrived created a robust economy in Maine, and despite its best efforts, even a worldwide pandemic hasn’t yet been able to completely derail Maine’s economy.
Without doubt there have been struggles and casualties along the way, but the signs of hope and optimism are growing by the day. Though few people are aware, in the current fiscal year the state is actually operating with a surplus, not a deficit. With just five months left in this budget cycle, the state has collected $154 million more than it budgeted.
This reason for this positive revenue picture is the unprecedented influx of federal cash that has flowed into Maine in just the last 12 months. Between the CARES Act and the new stimulus package recently passed by Congress, Maine has already or soon will receive billions more in federal aid. The most recent package includes a $1 billion boost directly into the state budget.
This is why Republicans fought so hard in the recent Supplemental Budget discussions to prevent increasing taxes on the businesses that employ Maine workers. However, while the new package that Congress just passed will help sustain the budget for a while longer, this is one-time money that we will not see again.
As we begin work on the budget for the next two years, we must resist the temptation to use the latest one-time federal aid to expand government programs that will require more funding every year as we go forward, long after the federal money is spent.
In the short term, state government has more than enough cash to meet its needs. On the other hand, Maine businesses have just been through the worst economic challenge in many decades; and those that have survived deserve all the help we can provide, not another tax bill.
This is especially important just now, when the biggest challenge that employers face may be the difficulty finding workers to hire. This has been a problem for a while now, due to the pandemic.
Though there is hope that with spring’s arrival we will begin to see the promise of a strong tourism season and the opportunity for Maine workers and their employers to once again drive our economy in the direction of the highs we experienced just 18 months ago, this can only happen if state government stays out of the way and allows Mainers to do what they do best: work hard and drive our state forward.
Again, I am Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake. Have a great weekend!