Democrats Outline Plans For Session – Republicans Say Absolutely No Tax Increases 

Maine Democrats say they’re going to focus during the legislative session on developing the workforce, strengthening schools, lowering health care and energy costs, and investing in research and infrastructure. Earlier this month, Democrats created a panel to address a “skills gap” cited by employers. A study by the state’s community college says 4,000 jobs between now and 2018 will go unfilled because people don’t have skills that are sought by employers. Senate President Justin Alfond says part of that initiative is the bipartisan goal to “make the classroom the best learning environment it can be.”When asked if their plan included any tax increases, Democratic leaders said everything is on the table. “Look, we have a lot of financial challenges in front of us right now,” said Democratic Senator Seth Goodall of Richmond. “First and foremost we’re going to look at all opportunities to solve these problems on every side of the equation. And we’re going to look at making wise decisions around programs that may need to be reduced, as well as looking at opportunities in revenue.” House Minority Leader, Republican Ken Fredette of Newport, said they share a lot of the same goals as the Democrats, but they have a very different view on one thing in particular. “There will be no tax increases,” Fredette said emphatically. “The question ultimately is in the details in terms of how much spending can be done. Because ultimately when you have a growing problem in DHHS that requires more and more money, that means there’s less money for schools and bridges and roads.” Some Republicans also accused Democrats of going light on details and of resurrecting “decades-old talking points about throwing more money” at education and “maxing out the state’s credit card” to stimulate the economy.(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report)