Among the successes, our fix on Revenue Sharing prevented a $40 million loss from being passed to cities and towns. This was a major win, even though we're still far below the statutory level of this funding. Revenue sharing is a key tool in helping to limit the growth of property taxes, and I was glad that we were able to accomplish this in the early weeks of the session.
I am also glad that this past session helped us find a partial fix toward the tax fairness credit issue (which replaced the circuit breaker with a less robust benefit) and repaired some of the problems posed by the Governor's cap on tax deductions, which was hurting both people with high medical bills, and the nonprofit community.
And I think we developed reasonable supplemental budgets that met the State's needs responsibly. Supplemental budgets are essentially midcourse corrections to assure that Maine's books remain balanced in the face of changes that occur over a biennium. I was particularly happy that our last budget included a solution to a statewide nursing home funding crisis, as well as resources to help eliminate the waiting lists for services for some of Maine's most profoundly disabled people. We also were able to address pressing issues at Riverview Psychiatric Center. We also managed to avoid some draconian cuts to Public Education, General Assistance (which is critical here in Portland) and other important programs.
Thinking of disappointments, the über-failure was our continued inability to pass health care expansion and get 70,000 low income Mainers insured. Over the course of two years, we tried five times to get this passed with different approaches, but it continued to go down on partisan votes. This was profoundly disappointing. It is hard to overstate what the economic effect of almost a million dollars of Federal money per day would have been in terms of jobs and broad benefit to the people of Maine.
Smaller frustrations abounded as well - we were engulfed in a swarm of stinging vetoes over the entire two years, 179 at last count. Many of these were meted out on bills that enjoyed broad bipartisan support. One example of this was the Governor's recent veto of solar power incentives, which would have improved our energy mix, stimulated private enterprise, and also helped low income people get heat pumps to reduce their heating costs - all for around a nickel a month on a power bill (the price of a single returnable bottle from the side of the road!). We need to expand our energy mix. and bills like this are small steps in the right direction.