Where have all the surplus dollars gone?

Senator Scott Cyrway delivers this week’s Republican Radio Address

By Senator Scott Cyrway

AUGUSTA – Maine’s Legislature recently completed work on the Governor’s supplemental budget. It was a massive $1.22 billion plan that included initiatives for both parties, but one of the most important aspects for Republicans was the return of your tax dollars to you.

Hello, I am Senator Scott Cyrway of Kennebec County and I am pleased to join you for this week’s Republican Radio Address.

Sen. Scott Cyrway – Kennebec

Last month’s supplemental budget passed through both houses in true bipartisan fashion. That’s the way it should be, and much different than last year’s biennial budget and Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, both of which were passed along mostly partisan lines.

Instead, Democrats knew they needed two-thirds support this time around to enact the budget as emergency legislation, so they decided to work with Republicans. And Maine is the better for it.

The supplemental budget contained several priorities Republicans have been focused on for more than a year. We were able to return $729 million to most Maine taxpayers through $850 relief checks. And while Republicans wanted to send checks to all Mainers, we were at least able to overcome Democrat objections to increase the qualifying income limits while they made multiple efforts to reduce them.

While the Governor has dubbed this as a BIDEN-flation relief check, our view is that this money was never the government’s to begin with. It was always yours, and this is your tax refund.

But the return of your dollars also meant we were able to keep government from growing any larger than it already is, and that’s the trap. You only have two choices when you over-collect taxes – either spend it and grow government or “Give it Back.” We obviously chose the latter. We always have. We always will.

Yet Maine Republicans were able to enact some tax reforms that will have a longer-term impact on our state. For years, the lure of lower-taxing states such as Florida has led to an outward migration of our seniors and retirees. Included in this budget is an increase in the exclusion of retirement income to $25,000, and that will increase over the next two years until it reaches $35,000. We’d rather keep our seniors here.

We were also able to expand Maine’s Educational Opportunity Tax Credit to all of Maine’s college graduates who are responsibly paying off their loans. If you go to school in Maine and stay here afterward to work, this will benefit you.

We were also able to fund public defense services. While it’s not all the funding that is needed, we did allocate enough to provide public defenders for our rural counties where they’re needed the most.

And we successfully defeated several proposed tax increases like a pet food tax and camp tax. Even with a surplus on hand, Democrats were still trying to raise taxes.

However, not all was rosy on the budget front. Because they’re in the majority, Democrats raided several money pots such as the Liquor Operations, Medical Use Marijuana and MaineCare Stabilization funds to the tune of an additional $35.7 million to fund their pet projects. I guess the $1.2 billion just wasn’t enough.

But shenanigans aside, we did come together to pass the supplemental budget and Republicans will continue to keep the interests of Maine’s citizens front and center. Much of that focus is keeping YOUR dollars in YOUR pocket.

I also wanted to mention a special event on Monday ahead of National Police Week, a week dedicated to law enforcement members who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

This year the Maine Chiefs of Police Association is honoring Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Gross, who was killed in September by a passing driver as he was picking up debris left after an accident on Route 3 in Trenton. Luke, who was a friend and fellow DARE officer, was the 88th person to die in the line of duty in Maine. I want to take this moment to honor him.

Again, I am Senator Scott Cyrway of Kennebec County. Have a great weekend.

Senator Scott Cyrway is in his fourth term and represents Maine Senate District 16. He is the Senate Republican Lead for the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee.

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