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Budget Battle Begins In Augusta 

Monday was the first day of public hearings on the Governor’s two-year budget proposal.As lawmakers begin the process of breaking down the $6.1 billion spending plan, people for and against it weighed in.State Finance Commissioner Sawin Millet was the first person to address lawmakers on the governor’s budget. “The provisions you’ll be hearing today, in the net, save $203 million over the biennium in the area of taxation and are intended to allow for private sector job creation,” Millett told Lawmakers.But not everyone is on board with the LePage’s plan. At a press conference earlier in the day, folks from the Maine Center for Economic Policy were joined by representatives from local government, small businesses, and state workers. They say the governor’s budget gives Maine’s wealthiest the lions share of the benefits. “This budget cuts property tax relief for working families while providing Maine’s wealthiest households, those earning more than $360,000, a $2700 tax cut.”State workers also sounded off. Ginette Rivard, Vice President of the Maine State Workers Association, Local #1989 took the podium and blasted Governor LePage’s budget. “He proposes cutting their (state workers) pensions and healthcare benefits by hundreds of millions of dollars to fund his over $204 million in tax breaks for maine’s high wage earnings and other costly proposals.” LePage spokesman Dan DeMeritt attended the press conference and responded to that criticism. “The people that have been paying the taxes in Maine, the private sector people who are investing in Maine’s economy, have been paying the price for the economic downturn for years,” he said.Demeritt says this budget is not a tax cut bill, it’s about sacrifices today with an eye on the future. “The tax proposals in the governor’s bill are across the board. They affect everybody and it depends on how much income you make as to how much you’re going to save by the tax reform in this bill.”Public hearings will continue throughout the week. This debate will likely last much longer.