Maine Organizations Voice Concern Over President’s Budget: Proposals Do Not Reflect Maine Priorities

(AUGUSTA, ME)  The president’s budget has the wrong priorities for Maine and America.  It harms working families by deepening the problem of stagnant living standards and increasing disparities in wages, health care, housing, and child care.

“We continue to see spending and tax proposals that benefit a few at the expense of many.  The administration’s fiscal policy has not and will not deliver on its promises to low- and middle-income families and will leave future generations to pick up the bill.  We urge our congressional delegation to work for a fiscally responsible budget that addresses our priorities and that meets our needs,” says Ed Cervone, policy analyst for the Maine Center for Economic Policy. 

At a time when 21,800 Maine children lack health insurance, almost 67,000 Maine families struggle to buy food, and over 56,000 Maine families pay more than half of their income for rent, action is required to help working families meet basic needs and give their children a decent start in life.  To achieve prosperity, investments in basic areas like education, environmental protection and family safety are essential. 

“This budget fails to protect the food-insecure in Maine and across the country.  It does not make nutrition for working families, the young and the old a priority,” says Dianne Holcomb, executive director for Partners in Ending Hunger. 

Instead, the president’s budget provides a windfall for the very wealthy while saddling future generations with large debts.  It weakens vital services like health care. It has inadequate funds for children’s health insurance, placing health coverage for many low-income children at risk and undermining state efforts to cover more uninsured children.  In addition, the President proposes roughly $26 billion in Medicaid cuts over five years, which would shift considerable costs to states.

“When there is broad agreement across the nation that we all benefit when everyone has access to basic health care – a sentiment shared by more than 90% of Mainers in a recent poll – the president misses an opportunity to lead us closer to this goal.  Americans are looking to the President and Congress to help the nation move forward – not backwards – in covering uninsured families,” says Ana Hicks, policy analyst at Maine Equal Justice Partners. 

Federal funding that comes to Maine for key priorities such as the environment, law enforcement, transportation, health care, and child care would be cut. Under the president’s budget, federal funding for these and other priorities (but excluding Medicaid) would be cut by almost $80 million below the 2006 level, adjusted for inflation.  These cuts would directly impact Maine’s state budget as our lawmakers would be forced to divert funds to fill the gaps created by these cuts.

“It is astounding that President Bush’s budget continues to fund extravagant tax cuts for the extremely rich at the expense of working families.  By eliminating essential programs and services for our communities, it undermines priorities of Maine people and destroys any hope of a long-term prosperity,” says Anna Klein-Christie, executive director of The Katahdin Institute.

“The Bush budget is unaffordable and unacceptable,” said Jesse Graham, associate director of the Maine People’s Alliance.  “The tax cuts in his budget proposal would cost a whopping $1.6 trillion and his plans to continue and escalate the war in Iraq will add billions more, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives.  His health-care cuts come at a time when costs continue to skyrocket, and his paltry proposals for student loans and clean energy are totally inadequate,” said Graham.

We call on our representatives in Congress to take a different approach and help create a budget that reflects Maine’s — and America’s — true values.  Congress should invest in critical priorities like children’s health insurance, food stamps for the hungry, child care for working parents, and affordable housing.  By making the right choices, Congress can craft a budget that meets Mainer’s priorities while charting a more fiscally responsible course than the president has proposed.