Opinion

New laws making a difference for Mainers

Maine people deserve a government that works for them. They deserve a government that not only listens to their concerns but actually responds to the challenges they face on a daily basis. 

I first ran for office because I was tired of feeling like I had no control and tired of people hundreds of miles away from my hometown in Allagash who were making decisions that affected my job, my family and my way of life without listening to or caring about what I had to say. To me, serving in state government was the only way I could shake things up. It was the only way I knew how to ensure that my voice, and the voices of people like me, mattered, and that our priorities became state priorities. Now, it’s making a difference.

After hearing from Mainers all across the state, my colleagues and I set out to make health care more affordable, take on “Big Pharma” and their D.C. lobbyists, and secure property tax relief for regular Maine people just trying to get by. We built an agenda based on what we heard from constituents in our districts and got right to work. The results speak for themselves.

 This year, I proudly led the charge to take on the pharmaceutical industry and their expensive lobbyists in Maine. Senate Democrats banded together, stood up to “Big Pharma” and successfully passed into law a series of real reforms. These new laws will make low-cost prescription drugs more accessible by creating a wholesale importation program with Canada. These new laws will also hold drugmakers and “middlemen” accountable for driving up costs and demand transparency throughout the drug-making and selling process. This is a huge win for Maine people. 

 As these new laws get off the ground, our budget restores the Drugs for Maine Elderly and Disabled program to make sure that our most vulnerable people can access low-cost drugs in the meantime. While other states are working to lower drug prices by addressing one issue at a time, Maine said enough is enough by tackling this issue head-on. 

 For too long I’ve heard from municipalities, seniors and families about revenue sharing and the need for property tax relief. This year, Senate Democrats delivered by securing $130 million in property tax relief for the state. First, lawmakers partially restored revenue sharing in the state budget, which takes some of the pressure off local governments to fund essential services. With more money coming from the state, municipalities don’t need to rely as heavily on property taxes to fill gaps in funding for police officers, schools and other essential services. 

 However, our work on property tax relief didn’t stop with revenue sharing. Lawmakers also increased the Homestead Exemption program, which allows Maine homeowners to exempt $25,000 off the value of their home before paying property taxes. We also expanded the Property Tax Fairness Credit to include more Maine families. This program allows eligible Maine families and seniors to get a partial refund on their property taxes or rent. Finally, lawmakers passed a law to provide a direct refund of $100 to every Maine homeowner each year. For many, that’s an extra round of groceries, a tank of gas, or simply a cushion in their budget. 

In reviewing the new laws that took effect last month, I’m proud of what we accomplished for hardworking families, seniors, small businesses and veterans. But we couldn’t have done it with hearing from everyday folks like you. It’s your stories and experiences that drive much of what I do in Augusta, whether it’s fighting to make health care more affordable and accessible, securing property tax relief so folks can afford to stay in their homes, or standing up to “Big Pharma.”

 I’ve held office hours all across the St. John Valley and central Aroostook County, and I’ve met with seniors, small business owners, health care providers and local officials in Caribou. All of this has reaffirmed my commitment to lower health care costs, fully restore revenue sharing and improve access to high-speed, reliable internet next year.

 While I’m proud of all that we accomplished this past year, I know we still have a lot of work to do for the people of this state. I look forward to coming back to Augusta in January, rolling up my sleeves and getting to work to deliver for hardworking Maine families, small businesses and seniors.

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