Posted on Feb 13, 2012
For Immediate Release: February 13, 2012
Augusta – Maine People Before Politics today outlined their opposition to approximately $20 million in one-time funding initiatives and tax increases in the proposed DHHS supplemental budget.
“Our opposition is to specific provisions of this compromise that simply do not put the DHHS budget on sound financial footing for the future. Leaving structural problems in the DHHS budget will only cause us to return to this very contentious issue year after year. Maine can do better than that,” said Jason Savage, executive director of Maine People Before Politics.
Included in the budget are the following provisions MPBP is opposing:
- Increase in the Dirigo tax: The budget package raises $4.8 million in taxes through the Dirigo tax. Supporters of this provision argue that it is simply a one-year freeze on the planned reduction in the tax, but MPBP advocated strongly for last year’s LD 1333, now PL 90 on the premise that the assessment on health insurance policies was counterbalanced by the reduction in the Dirigo tax. Put simply, increasing the Dirigo tax turns what was sold to the people of Maine as a net tax decrease into a net tax increase.
- 1% across the board cuts: The budget package includes a provision for 1% across the board deappropriation. MPBP has long advocated against this budgeting method. Elected officials should identify savings, not simply demand and impose them. This does nothing to prevent future budget shortfalls or protect other core government services. Elected officials are elected to identify priorities and take responsibility, not make thoughtless cuts.
- PNMI Cost of Care Initiative: MPBP supports the work of the Appropriations committee in preserving care for recipients of PNMI services, but opposes the booking of $11 million in savings in this budget. DHHS has pegged these savings at $7 million. MPBP believes that improperly booking these savings will result in another funding problem for the PNMI program in the near future.
- Statewide Radio Network Delay: The budget package proposes savings of $1.7 million in delaying payments for the statewide radio network project. MPBP opposes this item because it is not a structural reform and cannot be sustained as part of a long term budget solution for DHHS.
- Sweep DPFR Accounts for Licensing & Fees: $3.5 million is slated to be swept from DPFR accounts that hold funds paid for licenses and insurance. MPBP opposes this sweep on the basis that these fees were not paid to support welfare programs, and if this $3.5 million in revenue is not needed for support of the licensed and insured, they should not have been charged.
- FAME, Attorney General & Legislative One Time Funds: The budget package proposes to take $2 million from the FAME Loan Reserve Fund, $363,000 from Attorney General Drug Settlements and $1.4 million from FY11 Legislature budget. These are not long term funding solutions for DHHS. MPBP does support significant reductions in the legislative budget, where viable, but believes this one-time approach is not a sustainable revenue source for DHHS.
MPBP stands strongly opposed to these provisions. It is our hope that the budget can move forward free of the liabilities outlined above. It is time to work toward a solution that protects services for the most vulnerable and demonstrates to the people of Maine that Augusta is serious about fixing this problem with long-term solutions, not stop-gap measures.