It’s time for Maine to take action to end the many crises in public services

Mark Brunton

MSEA-SEIU Member Mark Brunton, at podium, joins in the Prosperity Coalition’s news conference May 9 calling on state legislators to roll back LePage-era tax breaks so they state can fully fund public services, education and other investments in our communities and economy.

By Mark Brunton
Member, Maine State Employees Association, SEIU 1989

After a decade of underfunded and understaffed public services in Maine, barely a week goes by without Mainers hearing about the lack of resources impacting the public services they count on.

The members of my union go to work every day determined to do their best to serve Maine people. Yet they are frustrated, disappointed and outraged to see solvable problems fester and worsen over the years.

Our public health nursing program was dismantled during a crippling opioid epidemic. Our 911 call centers and our child- and adult-protective services are understaffed and overwhelmed.  A recruitment and retention crisis jeopardizes the delivery of quality public services in all departments of Maine State Government.

These are just a few examples. There are lots more. Everyone in state government has sacrificed over the last 10 years. We’ve endured furlough days and a state shutdown. We’ve seen dramatically increased costs to our health insurance and cuts to our retirement. We’ve fallen further behind compared to private and public sector compensation and benefits.

If we’re going to right the ship, system-wide solutions are needed.

The crisis in the delivery of public services is directly related to tax cuts enacted during the past 10 years. Those tax cuts will cost our state $864 million in the next budget, with most of the benefit going to the wealthiest households. Maine’s elected leaders could have chosen to spend that money to fund public services, our education system, and other investments that build a stronger economy for working people. Instead, Maine’s elected leaders spent that money on tax cuts for those at the top.

Budget writers this year have real choices to make.

Should the next state budget continue the status quo for another two years, with public services undermined by a lack of resources? We say NO!

Or, should the next state budget address our recruitment and retention crises, and adequately fund and staff the public services Mainers rely on? We say YES!

Should the next state budget continue to underfund our schools and our communities for another two years, just so the wealthiest can keep their tax cuts? We say NO!

Or, should we un-rig our tax code, so everyone pays their fair share and we can invest in Maine people and our economy? We say YES!

It’s time for Maine to take action to end the many crises in public services. It’s time for Maine to stop underfunding revenue sharing and state aid for education. It’s time for Maine to address the revenue crisis it has created over the past 10 years. That’s why the over 13,000 Maine workers and retirees we represent are going to fight to make sure we right that ship.

Thank you.

Updated: May 16, 2019 — 11:45 am