The Appropriations committee has spent the last months caucusing on budget items, reviewing committee report backs, voting in or out unanimous or nearly unanimous items as well as addressing standalone bills mostly related to the Maine Public Employees Retirement System.
Several attempts have been made to engage Republicans both on the committee and in leadership in a meaningful dialogue regarding the 3% surtax and their proposals to fund education. Those discussions continue.
Speaker Gideon addresses this in the Press Herald today.
AFA Ds have presented committee amendments to incorporate the education and property tax relief aspects of the Opportunity Agenda. There was no meaningful discussion from Rs on the committee.
Following the May 1 revenue forecast the entire committee agrees on what revenue is available in the next biennium. $7.38B, including the 3% surtax approved by voters.
Outstanding items include:
- Education funding, both General Purpose Aid (GPA) to education and support for higher education,
- All Health and Human Services (HHS) cuts proposed by the governor,
- The majority of the position eliminations proposed by the governor,
- Controversial items in the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee,
- Funding for county jails,
- The closure of Downeast Correctional Facility,
- The fate and funding of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services
- Judicial salaries,
- The creation and funding of a cabinet level Department of Information Technology,
- The governor’s tax proposals,
- General Assistance,
- Support for legally present new Mainers that are prohibited by law from working,
- Marijuana implementation, and
- Debt service
Major items that have been resolved include:
- Rejecting the governor’s plan to freeze retiree cost of living adjustments (COLA) for no reason
- Rejecting the governor’s $40M raid on the General Fund to cover 100% of the costs of the State Police
- Accepted setting the anticipated attrition rate for the upcoming biennium at 5%
- Rejected the proposal to move the Driver Education and Evaluation Program (DEEP) to the Secretary of State’s office
- Funding for teacher retirement $29M
- Doubling the cap on slots for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities served under the Sec. 29 waiver for $11.6M