Democrats & Republicans Respond To LePage’s Budget Criticism 

Despite strong opposition from Governor LePage, both the House and Senate have approved the supplemental budget.The budget makes some cuts to the general assistance welfare program but LePage doesn’t think it cuts enough.The governor’s original proposal called for more significant cuts to the General Assistance welfare funding as well as other cuts, like eliminating funding for Maine Public Broadcasting.The budget that eventually passed unanimously by the Appropriations Committee got rid of many of the Governor’s proposals, or drastically reduced the cuts he wanted to make. “We rolled up our sleeves and made the best of it and decided we had to turn it into what it should be,” said Senator Dawn Hill, a Democrat from York, who is also a member of the Appropriations Committee. LePage had some harsh words for the budget that overwhelmingly passed the House and unanimously passed the Senate. “I cannot put my signature on a bill that largely ignores welfare reform,” LePage said. “I have major concerns about the overspending in the General Assistance welfare program. This budget keeps Maine on the same path it’s been on for 40-years and I will not be held hostage and forced to sign a budget that is irresponsible.”Friday, Hill fired back at LePage and defended the work of the Appropriations Committee. “It’s hardly irresponsible, we worked for weeks on it,” she said. “We negotiated back and forth. We came up with all kinds of creative solutions and then tried to find the best that worked for everyone.”Hill points out that lawmakers approved the creation of a working group whose job will be finding solutions that will make Maine’s General Assistance welfare system sustainable. “So they’re in the trenches. They know what the problems are and the changes that can be made,” she said. “And I think what their recommendations in the end will make it sustainable. They’ll find cost containment and better ways to deliver the services.”Democrats were not alone in disagreeing with the governor. Speaker of the House Robert Nutting also applauded the budget, saying it’s a good start toward getting the state where it needs to be. “I don’t think it’s irresponsible,” Nutting said. “I think this is the 6th budget that’s come out of the Appropriations Committee with a unanimous report and passed overwhelmingly in both chambers.”Nutting says the working group will help lawmakers determine whether the General Assistance welfare system is sustainable or not. He also says lawmakers are concerned that deep cuts to the system could shift costs on to municipalities. “Is it unsustainable? I’m not sure. But it’s a serious impact on the local communities property taxes if, when we fix it, we don’t fix it right,” Nutting said. “We don’t always get everything we want around here. We’re headed in the right direction. I hope the governor appreciates that. I think he very well may, but I think he’s upset he didn’t get everything he wanted.”