I think of the Maine budget process as a rock climb:
1) Sprinting is not the best option
2) It makes sense to think about each step to make sure you aren’t left hanging without a foot hold
3) Always make sure you have a partner and a safety harness
4) 6-year olds may be better at this than grownups
So far, we are half way up the mountain (or wall).
I was joined by over 50 others testifying against the cuts to Maine’s public health system. These cuts, proposed by the Governor, included 46 position cuts in the Maine CDC; virtual elimination of the Healthy Maine Partnerships; gutting Maine’s tobacco control and prevention program; massive cuts to school-based health and public health nursing and other important chronic disease prevention programs. By all accounts the public hearing was a success. I hope you caught some of the media coverage.
The next step was the analysis by the Health and Human Services Committee. This is where #3 comes in. I work very closely with Hilary Schneider, my counterpart at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Work sessions on the budget can take hours and don’t lend themselves well to people with other responsibilities, such as families. Hilary and I live near each other and have kids in the same after-school program. We actually plan our legislative schedules around who can pick up the kids. Some days she stays late and I plan to pick up the kids, other times, we swap. Having that safety harness allows us to concentrate on our jobs and do our best to advocate for public health funding.
Of course, #4 is a bit of a joke, but the budget process is not for the faint-hearted. Despite all the education, phone calls, and piles of evidence, the Republicans on the HHS committee stood lock-step with the Governor and voted to recommend cuts to public health. The Democrats did not. Their decision may seem to defy logic, but politics is not logical. It does not always mesh with actual facts.
The next step is back to the Appropriations Committee. I hope that the Committee members stop and make sure that they are positioning Maine best for a safe future. Otherwise, they better hope their carabineer clip is strong and their rope is not frayed because we are all going to fall.