This is a few days behind, but I think it’s important enough to bring up a little late. This is a link to a story reporting on the issues arising from the revenue sharing dust-up we had this past week in the Appropriations Committee.
So what happened? It’s essentially a standard partisan matter of he said, she said. The Democrats claim the Republican faction on the Appropriations Committee chose to walk out of a scheduled vote on a $40 million budget bill, while the GOP assures that the Democrats chose to meet without them. Republican Rep. Kathleen Chase stated, “The Republicans on Appropriations were treated inappropriately and with disrespect by our democratic colleagues and the chairs of the Appropriations. We are dismayed and disappointed by the bad choice made to deliberately meet without us and to blatantly lie by stating that our absence was our decision.”
The Democratic response to the GOP quotes, maintaining that the Republicans were informed that the Dems would be moving forward with the vote because they were convinced that the Republicans would not agree to the bill.
But what was this bill? To put it simply, it was a restoration of Maine Revenue Sharing funds, to the tune of $40 million. These funds are distributed to municipalities, many of whom rely on this distribution of funds to augment and supplement their municipal budgets. Much of this money gets injected into the local economies, stimulating regional economic growth as well as the business climate of regions that would be faced with rough times if these funds were to disappear. The second link provides a database supplied by the Portland Press Herald that shows the loss faced by towns in the fiscal years of 2014 and 2015 should this revenue bill fail to pass. For example, a small municipality who stands much to lose by the loss of these funds is the coastal fishing/port town of Eastport. Over the next two fiscal years, should this revenue bill fail to pass, Eastport would lose nearly $500,000 of much needed money that would be injected into the local economy and assist the people living their through a variety of local business and municipal funding projects. This is something that we cannot allow to happen.
Now, I’ll make myself quite plain. I generally do not agree with a drastic redistribution of income, either from a private or public standpoint. That being said, my particular interest in the field of economics is local economic development and many of these small communities can literally not survive without additional funds provided by the State-much of which will be coming from State rainy day funds as well as potential budget surpluses. Now is certainly not the time for drastic partisan lines to be drawn in the sand, when bi-partisan support would be best for a bill such as this. Many politicians’ towns’ benefit from such sharing, the suspension of which would be detrimental to an already fragile Maine business climate. Personally, I doubt that small towns that are dotted across this state would thrive, or even fare particularly well without such revenue sharing, and frankly, I don’t think that now is a great time to test whether or not we’ll survive without these funds. Support for this bill, from both sides, is what is necessary for Maine right now, and this isn’t an issue to become particularly ideological over such matters. The GOP and the Democrats need to resolve this issue, especially if they wish for rural Maine municipalities, which depends on these funds, to survive.