Exclusive—Maine GOP Exec. Director Jason Savage on the State Budget Shutdown: ‘Governor LePage Isn’t Willing to Sell the Farm’

Maine Gov. Paul LePage
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
SEAN MORAN

Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine GOP, told Breitbart News, “It’s only when the Democrats have a shutdown that they start to get sober about Maine’s fiscal reality.”

Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage said on Friday that he would reject the latest budget deal from a bipartisan group of legislators, warning that state government would shut down if Democrats do not agree to cut taxes and reduce spending.

Governor LePage demanded that the two-year budget proposal rescind a three percent surcharge tax on household income over $200,000 that voters approved in a referendum last fall. The proposed budget would also increase education funding by $162 million.

Both the leaders of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate supported the compromise budget. However, pundits remain unsure whether the budget proposal has the support to pass through both chambers.

Governor LePage has ten days to respond to any budget sent to his desk; most of the state government would shut down during that time frame.

Jason Savage told Breitbart News that the three percent surtax on wealthy Maine citizens would destroy Maine’s economy. He said:

Well you know we have some really, really strong left-wing special interest groups and money from out of state, we’re almost like a sandbox for all of these progressive groups and so in one hand we have massive battle unfolding between these groups that have their claws in all of these legislatures and the governor who absolutely will not do something to absolutely destroy Maine’s economy. We’re looking about 15,000 people that will get hit with a 3 percent income surtax on top of their income taxes and that will hurt about 11,000 small businesses. A really strong number of Republicans, especially in the House, said “Hell no, we’re not going to do that.” The deals that are being voted on now, that they’re trying to do to avert the shutdown have all had the 3 percent surtax on income so when it came down into it and Governor LePage refused and others said, “Ok we won’t do that.”

It was only when they when Democrats face a government shutdown that they said that they won’t punish people like that.

Savage told Breitbart News that throwing more money at Maine’s education system will not reap better benefits and that the state’s education system already experiences rampant waste and abuse. Savage explained:

I think the idea that you punish 11,000 small businesses and some of our most successful residents to dump more money into government systems that are already outspending what they should be is a failed idea. We, the state party, have been saying from the beginning that all these Democrat groups are trying to do is give us a more expensive education system and the status quo. If you don’t want reform the system, if you don’t want to make it better, you don’t get more money, because you’re not doing your job. You know, over years and years education funding has increased, enrollment has dropped, and they’re not doing anything with that money to make education better.

What Republicans have said was that for an increase in education funding we want reforms that are going to get more money in the classroom and actually lead to better outcomes for our kids, not just pay raises for your superintendent who already makes over $150,000 a year. That’s our perspective, and it’s shocking how much administration, how much waste goes into our education system. Only 59 cents on the dollar actually go into funding the classroom, everything else goes into administration and other fees you cannot make headway on a better service. Even if you believe that the problem is funding, if you just keep shoveling more money into a fire pit you’re not going to get to spend it on anything. It’s just a very, very expensive system because all of the money stayed at the top and gets spent on things that don’t help the kids. So we fought that battle for six months, and some of the reforms are being considered now. It’s only when the Democrats have a shut down that they start to get sober about Maine’s fiscal reality.

Savage continued, telling Breitbart what sort of reforms the budget would have to include for Governor LePage to accept a budget deal. Savage said:

I think if they did a little bit more on the education reform front, there were two really important things to the governor that the Democrats are trying to get taken out, one is a state-wide teacher contract and another one is rural teacher pay equalization and I think if they were to go back and do those two things and then if they were to cut the spending back and make our revenue forecasts balance, where we spend money on things that we can afford to spend on and eliminate the one remaining tax increase, then they might be able to work out a deal.

I think the governor has negotiated a tough deal, he’s compromised a little bit, but Governor LePage isn’t willing to sell the farm. In this case, Democrats want you to believe that they are going to take from the rich to give to the poor, however, what that really means is that they want to take from our kids and give to their friends.

They want to mortgage the next decade or even the next decade after that so that their current special interests stay friendly with them. So that the special interests can get the policy they want and our kids will have to pay for it.

Savage explained that Maine’s tax burden dwarfs even that of Massachusetts’s and that a state cannot tax itself into prosperity. The Maine GOP director said:

Massachusetts’s income tax is almost half of what of Maine’s is. We only have about 5,000 households making about $200,000 a year and we need more families to do well, we need more jobs that pay a lot of money and Democrats want to tax everything they don’t like to try to get rid of it. But, when it comes to income they want to tax it and they think that it gives us more of it. The physics of money doesn’t work that way. If you tax something more, you get less of it. We need to be competitive and we need to be more like other growing states. We’re fighting to get back to a 7.1 percent income tax.

Despite the looming shutdown, Savage believes that time is on the Republicans’ side. Democrats cannot afford to hold out much longer. Savage concluded, “I think that the most likely scenario will be if we get to a shutdown, there’s rumblings that the Senate Minority Leader is working on a deal with the governor, because she’s actually negotiating in good faith with the governor unlike some of the others. But if that doesn’t work out and we go to a shutdown, I think it will take somewhere between three and seven days. I don’t think the Democrats are in a position where they can hold out much longer and their position will get much weaker with every passing day.”

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