Senate President Says Budget Bill Addresses Most Pressing Needs
AUGUSTA – The Maine Senate today passed a supplemental spending package to address shortfalls in the current state budget.
Among the highlights of the budget bill are funding for 29 positions at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta in order to address staffing problems there.
It also includes more than $2.4 million to cover funding shortfalls at Maine’s county jails.
“I would like to thank members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee for their hard work on these issues,” Senate President Thibodeau said.
“From the very beginning of this process, they have had a clear focus on the spending priorities for Riverview and our jails.
“Today was a good day for the Maine Legislature. Hopefully the unanimous vote on this budget bill will set the tone for the rest of the session.”
Senator Jim Hamper (R-Oxford), who is the Chair of the AFA Committee said, “Passage of LD 236 is a step in the right direction for ensuring that state funding goes where it is most needed. I am pleased it received unanimous support in the Appropriations Committee and in the Senate, and am hopeful this bodes well for our work on the biennial budget.”
Significant Minimum Wage Increase Harmful to Maine’s Economy
Augusta – Republican Senators on the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee (LCRED) today stated that Democrats’ attempt to drastically increase Maine’s minimum wage would have a negative effect on Maine’s economy and workforce.
The Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee is holding a public hearing today on eight pieces of legislation regarding the minimum wage. Seven of the measures seek to increase the minimum wage to as a high as to $12.00 per hour.
A study released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office in 2014 stated that increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would result in a loss of 500,000 jobs nationwide.
Maine’s current minimum wage is $7.50, which is already higher than the current federal minimum wage.
Senator Amy Volk (R-Cumberland), Chair of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development, noted that one of the groups most vulnerable to the negative effects of the minimum wage are young people looking for a first job.
“Young people trying to find entry-level work would be negatively affected by a drastic increase in the minimum wage,” said Senator Volk. “We should be encouraging high school and college students to find jobs and build their skillset. By raising the minimum wage to a point where businesses cannot afford to hire entry-level folks, we are stunting the growth of our workforce and reducing the opportunities available to young people.”
In 2013, the last year for which data is available, 52% of those employed at or below the minimum wage in Maine are under the age of 25.
“Dramatically increasing the minimum wage is not the answer to improving Maine’s economy. In fact, it will hurt the very people it’s intended to help. By increasing the cost of labor, it becomes more expensive overall to operate a business,” said Senator Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot). “That cost will be pushed on to the consumer, and everyone, including folks earning the minimum wage, will be paying more for goods and services. A better approach is to continue working to improve Maine’s business environment to attract higher-paying jobs for Mainers.”
Senator Eric Brakey Submits Constitutional Carry Bill; Has Nearly 100 Co-Sponsors
Augusta – Senator Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) today submitted his legislation to allow Mainers to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, if they are already legally eligible to own a handgun. The legislation, commonly known as “Constitutional Carry” or “Vermont Carry,” has garnered wide bipartisan support from both legislative chambers.
A total of 96 legislators---representing well over 50% of all Maine’s lawmakers, including a majority of members in the Democrat-controlled House---signed on as bill sponsors. Members of both Republican and Democrat legislative leadership have signed on to support the legislation. The lead co-sponsor on the legislation is Representative Michael Shaw (D-Standish).
“I am glad to have strong bipartisan support from both chambers for this bill,” said Senator Brakey. “This is a moderate proposal. It allows law-abiding citizens, who are already legally eligible to carry a visible handgun, to also carry a concealed handgun. Under current Maine law, the simple action of putting on a jacket turns a law-abiding gun owner into a law breaker, unless they undergo a lengthy permitting process. This legislation changes that, and in doing so restores our Second Amendment Rights.”
Though eligible citizens would no longer be required to seek a permit to carry a concealed handgun within Maine’s borders, the legislation preserves Maine’s permitting system so that citizens can enjoy reciprocity with other states.
Constitutional Carry is currently law in the states of Vermont, Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Oklahoma.
A public hearing has not yet been scheduled for the legislation.
Below are remarks from the Maine Senate Republican Leadership regarding the Governor’s State of the State Address.
Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo)
“There is a lot to like in the plan the Governor laid out for the State of Maine tonight. I was particularly encouraged by his commitment to lower electricity prices for Maine homeowners and businesses and revisit some our renewable energy policies that are costing ratepayers too much.
“I also support the Governor in his plan to continue the fight against welfare abuse by cutting down on fraud and protecting the system for the truly needy.”
I thought other highlights of tonight’s speech were his commitments to provide much-needed funding increases for our struggling nursing homes and to reduce the waiting lists for disabled Mainers who have been waiting too long for critical services.
“I would also like to commend the Governor for his proposal to reduce income taxes in Maine. For too long our tax policies have been a burden to our hard working families and businesses. As the session goes on, we will get a better understanding of how his entire tax proposal affects our local communities.
“The Governor has put forth a bold proposal and I look forward to working with him on it to make Maine a better place for all of us.”
Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin)
“Governor LePage’s goal to eliminate the income tax is laudable. We must put more money back in the pockets of Mainers and focus on having an efficient, effective government. We must always remember that Maine’s hardworking taxpayers foot the bill for our government. They must be at the forefront of any and all decisions made about state spending.”
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot)
“The Governor is to be applauded for the thoughtful budget proposal he has put forth for the people of our state. By prioritizing our needy populations and striving to eliminate the income tax, he puts Mainers first and continues his work to ensure that government is working for the people, as it should be.”