State lawmakers recently lived up to the biggest challenge of this legislative session. We enacted a bipartisan state budget that is fair, responsible and a true compromise, and then overrode the governor’s veto of that budget.

The override of the governor’s veto averted a massive property tax shift and a shutdown of state government, which would have plunged Maine into chaos.

The Legislature achieved what many said was impossible, given the divided government and significant economic challenges.

The budget we passed is not a Democratic budget or a Republican budget. It is not a conservative budget or a progressive budget. It is a responsible budget built on collaboration and common ground. It mitigates a property tax shift to Maine people, funds our schools and ensures that seniors and people with disabilities can pay for their health care and medicine.

We on the Appropriations Committee built a budget knowing that it was not possible to demand all or nothing. In a divided government, you must be willing to give and make hard choices.

In a divided government, you must stay at the table even when you feel like walking away. In a divided government, there are hard questions you have to ask yourself. Will you stay at the table? Will you seek common ground? Will you set party and ideology aside in order to meet your obligations to the people of Maine?

These were the choices that each and every one of us at the State House had to make. It was not easy. We faced extreme pressures from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. But we were not sent to Augusta to represent a particular political ideology. We were sent to represent our constituents.

We know that the people of Maine are tired of partisanship. They want their government to work. When lawmakers approved and then overrode the governor’s veto of this bipartisan budget, we showed that we stand with our constituents. We showed that even in a divided government, we can work together. We can collaborate even when we vigorously disagree.

This compromise budget achieves some of our most important goals. Democrats and Republicans can agree that it is far better than the proposal the governor sent us. The governor sent us a budget proposal that shifted $400 million of the tax burden to local communities and their property taxpayers. That tax shift was going to help pay for tax breaks for the wealthy that were passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature two years ago.

Our bipartisan budget blunts the massive property tax hikes in the governor’s proposal and significantly reduces his cuts to communities. It restores the $125 million cut to the revenue-sharing system between the state and municipalities. It also preserves one key property tax reduction measure and creates a tax fairness credit for another.

Our budget also restores funding to our schools. Lawmakers returned $32 million in cuts to our public schools. We recognized that we need to help our classrooms be the best learning environments they can be, rather than to undercut those efforts.

Our budget also restores cuts to Drugs for the Elderly — a vital program that helps seniors and people with disabilities pay for their medicines and health care. Our budget also reduces wait lists for enhanced specialized services for MaineCare patients with severe disabilities.

We restored these cuts by balancing painful cuts to programs and temporarily raising revenue. The budget includes a temporary half-cent increase in the sales tax and a 1 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax. Both of these temporary measures end after two years. We’ll also find savings by closing corporate loopholes. Lawmakers directed the state to identify $40 million in savings in this area.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted in this budget, but we overwhelmingly agreed this budget is a responsible solution based on finding common ground. By standing up for this bipartisan budget, lawmakers in Augusta showed that we are willing and able to govern even in the face of tremendous obstacles. The people of Maine deserve no less.

Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston is chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and is serving her 11th year on the budget-writing committee. She is a third-term member of the House and previously served four terms in the Senate. She represents part of Lewiston.


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