AUGUSTA – Maine’s mayors and municipal officials have done a lot of complaining about Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage’s budget proposal and its cuts to revenue-sharing agreements with towns and cities. But one thing critics of the Governor’s budget proposal have not done is offer a better plan.
On Thursday, LePage called on municipal officials to offer solutions, rather than belly-aching and political rhetoric, during negotiations on the upcoming biennial budget proposal.
“The problem is there are only three large budget areas – education, welfare and revenue sharing,” LePage wrote in a letter to officials in Maine’s cities and towns.
“We cannot cut $200 million from debt service – the State must pay its bills. The Judicial Branch costs $100 million – courts are already behind, and I will not cut them further. Other core state functions – State Police, Corrections, our Natural Resource agencies – have been cut to the bone to feed continued growth in education and welfare spending, and they cannot be cut further without reducing public safety or our future economy,” the Governor wrote. “That leaves only the three large pots of money, and I chose revenue sharing.”
According to the Governor’s Office, LePage attached to the letter information on total general fund appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014-15, which shows the bulk of the budget – 44.8 percent – is allocated to education. The Department of Health and Human Services represents 35.2 percent, and the remainder of State government accounts for 20 percent of general fund spending.
“Most letters I receive say we made the wrong choice and that we should restore the $200 million subsidy to municipalities, but they do not suggest other cuts that should be made at the state level,” said LePage.
“It is easy to find fault and hard to find solutions,” he said. “I welcome any suggestions town officials have to cut elsewhere in the state budget, but it is time for everyone to set complaints aside and offer solutions.”
Governor LePage also extended an offer to assist town and city officials if they need flexibility from the State to reduce their own budgets.
“If there are proposals to reduce administration and overhead by sharing services between towns, we will support them,” he said.