By Rep. Lawrence Lockman
By the time this column appears in print, the Statehouse in Augusta will be the scene of a state budget showdown that’s been brewing for months, if not years. Maine people are about to witness a clash of visions about what kind of state we want for the next generation of Maine families.
Budgets are about setting priorities. When Maine people set their household budgets, they understand that they have to distinguish between wants and needs. But Statehouse Democrats refuse to be bound by the basic economic reality that governs Maine people when they put their household budgets together. Left-wing progressive Democrats (and some squishy progressive Republicans) are proposing a budget that diverts scarce resources from programs that benefit seriously disabled Maine people to programs that subsidize the growing number of non-citizens and illegals who are moving to Maine.
Democrats are dug in so deep on this issue that they are willing to risk a state government shutdown to get their way. If they can’t muster a two-thirds vote for their budget deal in both houses before July 1, state government will shut down.
On the first round of votes in the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, majority Democrats were joined by Senate Republicans in voting against Governor LePage’s proposal to bar undocumented and illegal immigrants from the General Assistance program, which is administered at the local level but partially funded by the state. The so-called “majority budget” proposal preserves the status quo, and keeps welfare benefits flowing to non-citizens.
Governor LePage wants to use the money saved from ending welfare for undocumented and illegal immigrants to fund services for seriously disabled Mainers (people with autism and traumatic brain injuries) who have been languishing on the notorious Medicaid waitlists. Those waitlists are the legacy of the Baldacci administration’s reckless and irresponsible Medicaid expansion over 10 years ago. Disabled and elderly Mainers were shoved to the back of the bus to make way for the legions of able-bodied childless adults who came out of the woodwork to sign up for medical welfare.
Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Democrat Justin Alfond, aided and abetted by a handful of Senate Republicans, want to grow the welfare state and lock in another dependent underclass, this time non-citizens. In fact, the progressives have never forgiven Governor LePage for what he did on his first day in office in 2011: he rescinded Governor John Baldacci’s 2003 executive order that made Maine a sanctuary state for illegals. The pending budget proposal would in effect make Maine a sanctuary state once again, and a magnet for illegal immigrants.
But it will not happen if House Republicans stand united. And I am happy to report that the Gang of 68 is rock solid in our commitment to protecting Maine’s most vulnerable citizens from a budget that throws them under the bus. The freshman class of the House GOP caucus in particular is a group of smart, principled lawmakers who understand what’s at stake. The House Republican budget prioritizes nursing homes over methadone clinics, and Maine’s most vulnerable elderly and disabled over non-citizen newcomers.
As legislators, we have choices to make. We can provide funding to help an elderly Maine couple with a developmentally disabled adult daughter get needed services, after languishing for years on a Medicaid waitlist because no funding was available. Or we can provide welfare benefits and EBT cards to the increasing number of non-citizens and illegal immigrants who are moving to Maine.
I cannot and I will not go back to my constituents and tell them I voted to maintain the profoundly dysfunctional status quo in Augusta. We have a historic opportunity to make budget decisions that will make a huge difference in the lives of Maine people and put state government’s priorities in proper order.
Let the debate begin.
Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives. He is the ranking Republican on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. He may be reached at [email protected].