A Good Compromise on Spending
By Bill Diamond
Last week, before we broke for a few weeks, we passed another Supplemental Budget. This was the result of weeks of work by the Appropriations Committee that produced a very good compromise. As opposed to the last budget, which was concerned with funding issues at the Department of Health and Human Services, this one is designed to take care of funding issues across state government between now and the end of Fiscal Year 2013 (June 30, 2013).
This week I’d like to give you a quick update on this bill.
There are significant differences between the original budget proposed by the governor and the one that we passed. The governor’s proposal had a great deal of policy language from tax cuts in future years to subpoena powers for a new state agency which most legislators felt was not appropriate for a bill designed to adjust spending in the middle of a budget cycle. The Appropriations Committee rightly took these out.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Funding for MPBN has been fully restored. It does, however, contain language to move the state to a fee-for-service model funding for MPBN over the next five years. This will give them time to prepare a model that will work without a state subsidy, if necessary;
• The large cuts to state funding of General Assistance have been drastically scaled back. This program, which is often the last resort when people are truly desperate, will still face some cuts, but it will still be able to serve as a safety net;
• The budget restores funding for higher education including the University System, Community College System, and Maine Maritime Academy (originally slated for a $2.4 million cut);
• It fully restores funding for the Fund for a Healthy Maine (which was originally slated for a $4.2 million cut);
• It provides additional money for courthouse security;
• Most gratifying to me personally, it provides $360,000 for the Computer Crimes Unit. This is the centerpiece of my bill to help protect and rescue children from sexual assault by adding the forensic examiners and detectives needed to tackle the backlog of cases and investigate new crimes more quickly.
I am grateful to the Appropriations Committee for all their hard work, and for turning out such a good compromise.
The plan now is for the legislature to break for a few weeks. This will give the Appropriations Committee time to get new, more accurate revenue projections for next year and put together yet another budget to resolve remaining issues in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). We will also be voting on a badly needed bond package when we return.
Please feel free to send me an e-mail at my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond or call my office at 287-1515 if you have any thoughts on this.
Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.