The Maine Legislature continues to debate a budget proposal to eliminate a $200 million shortfall in revenue. There were two proposals before the Maine House today, one from the Democrats and one from the Republicans. The Democrat plan passed handily, as expected, but then the House entered into an amendment phase. The last I heard, that was still going on.
The Senate also must work on the budget and then there could be a session to reconcile any differences. The Legislature is expected to work into or through the weekend to resolve the budget so the governor can sign it into law before April 1st.
So far, at least at last report, the Republicans were standing together to oppose the budget. Five Democrats also voted against it. The revised budget does not really deal with the budgetary woes of the state as no substantial spending changes were made. This leaves the potential for even further problems next year, and possibly before this one is over.
One thing we probably should point out after all these budget posts about a shortfall. The state’s income did increase this year. The shortfall came from the failure of estimates in several areas, such as sales tax, to come as expected. Also the state made some very creative income estimates that had no chance of success, such as calling unused gift cards as unclaimed property and asking issuers to send the money to the state.
Some other fascinating news about the state today. The personal income of Mainers grew 5.3 percent over last year. The national average increase was 6.2 percent. Maine is among the 10 states with the slowest income growth for the second year in a row.
Maine dropped four spots in the Most Livable State Awards to 20th. For the fifth straight year, New Hampshire is number one.
This is one of my favorite items of the day. The Legislature would like Maine to become the first state to adopt universal health care. This state currently is the one with the second highest insurance rates in the nation. A couple of years ago, the Legislature established the state’s own Dirigo Insurance plan as a first step in universal care. It is extremely costly to the state and since its creation, only about 15 thousand people have joined. The debate in the state is raging on whether Dirigo is a success or failure and even if it should be continued. Today, the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee unanimously voted against a proposal to switched legislators from the more generous state employee health plan to Dirigo Choice. They rejected the plan they created to be the savior of universal health care in Maine.
Don’t you just love it?