Locals make their voices heard at state budget hearing

About 200 people traveled to Brewer March 25 for an unusual off-site legislative hearing on the Governor’s proposed budget.

BREWER — Some 200 people traveled here March 25 to listen to or express their worry, displeasure and outrage at Governor Paul LePage’s proposed budget and its more-than-$400-million tax shift to municipalities.

One by one town officials and others — who were limited to three minutes and timed with an egg timer — explained in detail how the budget as written would affect their municipalities and their individual pocketbooks.

The testimony, which ran from 3 to 8 p.m., was held at Jeff’s Catering & Event Center before members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

A committee aide, Holly Mullen, said 86 people signed up to testify. Of that number, two favored the budget and one actually testified.

The proposed changes include, among others, withholding two years of municipal revenue sharing; reduced school subsidies; loss of truck excise revenue; changes in the circuit breaker and homestead exemption property tax break; shifting teacher retirement benefits to municipalities and creating a corporate tax exemption for large amounts of currently taxable property.

John Knutson of Brooklin, chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Committee, said the Legislature last year awarded $400 million in tax cuts to the state’s most financially successful.

“And then we announce that we have a $400-million fiscal crisis that requires broad cuts in support for the rest of our citizens, especially the middle class, elderly and less well off,” Knutson said.

Gary Fortier, chairman of the Ellsworth City Council, said the city has done its best to make do with less.

The proposed budget, he said, would cost Ellsworth close to $1.5 million each year.

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Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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