Eight years back and ten years ahead: a final legislative report

27 November 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As I conclude this final week as your representative, I write with thanks for the trust and confidence which you placed in me through the last eight years through many thoughtful conversations in stores and dooryards.

The hardships of the pandemic continue to test us all. The needs of many businesses and families remain acute as winter approaches. But every day I see in our community evidence of’ resilience, persistence, kindness, and decency that recommits my faith that we will find our way through this stronger than ever.

For example, the testing program that businesses in our region hosted this summer in partnership with MDI Hospital and Maine CDC built confidence that conscientious public health practices were keeping residents, employees, and visitors relatively safe. This confidence in turn ensured that this summer was more prosperous than it might have been as outbreaks surged elsewhere.

The state’s economic indicators continue to suggest that we remain relatively fortunate. Maine’s qualities and relative safety now attract people to the benefit of housing markets and businesses.  Beyond the significant exception of restaurants and hotels, Maine sales on average have stabilized and improved

But this average belies a crueler reality that the economically vulnerable are suffering in increasing disproportion. The disparity of economic damage from this pandemic highlights both structural economic disadvantage and how individual household disruptions compound in impact on aggregate prosperity.  

As a state, we can not soundly recover without a foundation of public health, equitable education, reliable childcare, and safe housing in proximity to stable jobs.

Today, those seem proper measures to evaluate the achievements of your legislature over the years I was privileged to hold a seat.

Finally expanding access to Medicaid helped tens of thousands to gain health services in the last two years. By state law, irrespective of what happens federally, insured Mainers are now assured coverage for essential health benefits such as prescription drugs, emergency services, maternity care, mental health care, and substance use treatment.

Families struggling through this recession are now assured transitional support as individuals gain skills for new employment, eliminating the so-called “welfare cliff.”

In education, I am proud of directing more funding toward early education and economic disadvantage and increasing by 40% the overall state aid for schools thereby reducing the share of school spending required of property tax payers.

I am proud of the legislature’s bipartisan work in negotiating prudent state budgets while increasing the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund (the so-called “Rainy Day Fund”) from $45 million in 2012 to $260 million, a record both in terms of absolute dollars and as a percentage of state revenues. Hard deliberations lie ahead on balancing needs against resources. But the evidence suggests that Maine generally has found that balance throughout the unusual circumstances and mixed legislative partnerships with the last two governors.

Last, I have championed longer-range planning for building economic opportunity through clean energy development, scientific research, talent development, and capitalizing on Maine’s distinct culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Over the past year, I was fortunate to collaborate in this work through three major stakeholder efforts:

Final reports from these groups are reaching the Governor’s desk this week with the expectation that their recommendations will guide legislative priorities in 2021. 

Together there is urgency, opportunity, and synergy in all these recommendations, especially in the economic potential of clean energy, and I intend to follow the next steps closely and continue to do what I can to see these opportunities realized.

As the legislature did not agree to return for a special session this August, we left stranded a comprehensive ‘Back to Work’ package of bonds in support of these economic goals. I know the Governor has a continuing interest and I hope that the next legislature may find some agreement on a similar set.

I love our state and I love our community. Serving you has been one of my greatest privileges and deepest joys. Thank you for entrusting me to work for you. You will be well represented in the state house by Senator Luchini and Representative Williams. Stay well.

With gratitude,

Brian

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