Gideon: House Democrats remain committed to addressing the issues facing Maine
Maine people should be able to see a doctor when they need one. They deserve to earn a living wage for the hard work hard they put in. And they should have peace of mind knowing their aging parents or disabled loved ones are safe, secure and well taken care of. Finally, they need to have faith that the people they elect to govern are as hardworking as they are – that the people they elect to govern have their backs.
Good afternoon, I’m Sara Gideon, the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. Thanks for tuning in.
A little over one week ago, our legislative session adjourned sine die without achieving any of these goals. Because of the actions of 66 House Republicans, because of their refusal to continue working, these important issues remain unresolved.
On the last day of this session, three-quarters of Maine’s Legislature – every single Democrat, every Independent and every Senate Republican – cast their votes and and said they were ready to continue to work and committed to solving the problems Maine people face.
But as has often been the case during this Administration and under this House Republican minority, the process broke down completely when the House Republican caucus, led by Rep. Ken Fredette, refused to continue working, even though the job wasn’t finished.
This Republican caucus refused to fund or implement healthcare insurance under Medicaid expansion that you voted for. Then they tried to roll back the increase in the minimum wage that you voted for. Sadly, they were willing to throw away all the remaining good, bipartisan work and the responsibility of governing in order to attempt to change the policies YOU put into law when you went to the ballot box and cast your constitutional right to vote.
House Democrats believe in negotiating and coming together to find solutions, but we don’t think that cutting hardworking Mainers wages, restricting access to health care, or rolling back the laws you created is the way to get there. And we know for sure that going home before you finish your job is simply and absolutely unacceptable.
There are solutions to the challenges we face and those solutions are right at our fingertips.
We must start with keeping the promises we made to those who care for our elderly and most vulnerable. Maine’s direct care workers provide crucial services, and they have to earn a living wage for this work. If we don’t take action, their wages will literally be rolled back on July 1, causing the shortage of direct care workers to grow and putting the health and safety of our seniors and people with intellectual disabilities at serious risk.
We’ve also got attack and reverse the opioid epidemic. Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not take action.
There are a number of pieces of legislation – all endorsed by the Legislature’s bipartisan Opioid Task Force – that would dramatically increase access to treatment and recovery programs that Maine families and individuals struggling with addiction desperately need. There’s no reason to wait any longer.
And if we have the opportunity to return, lawmakers need to approve bonds to make essential upgrades to our infrastructure including bridges, roads, our water systems and higher education facilities. These items are fundamental to our ability to drink clean water, maintain our highways and support our students.
House Democrats remain as committed as ever to addressing the issues that matter to you. We won’t walk away from our shared priorities when things get tough. We will continue to work with our colleagues, regardless of party affiliation, to find common ground and move our state forward.
It is the prudent thing to do, the responsible thing to do, and the right thing to do. I’m Sara Gideon, thank you so much for listening.