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Gov.-Elect LePage announces Budget Working Group

At the State House Tuesday, Maine Governor-Elect Paul LePage announced the members of his Budget Working Group, a bipartisan team that includes experienced legislators and respected business leaders.

The group will be helping Maine’s incoming governor prepare his budget proposal for the 2012-13 Biennium. Members of the team have worked for Democrat, Independent and Republican governors. They have served in the executive branch and helped write past budgets as members of the Appropriations Committee.

The budget group will be headed by State Rep. Sawin Millett (R-Waterford), a longtime member of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. He will be assisted by Tarren Bragdon, executive director of the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Other members include Republican Senator Peter Mills (R-Cornville), a member of the Health and Human Services Committee; Mary Mayhew, formerly of the Maine Hospital Association; George Kerr, former Democratic chair of the Appropriations Committee; Ryan Low, who served under Governor Baldacci as commissioner of the Dept. of Administrative and Financial Services; Mike Tyler, a health care expert who served on Governor Angus King’s transition team; State Rep. John Robinson (R-Raymond), who served on the Appropriations Committee and the Business, Research and Economic Development Committees; State Rep. Ken Fletcher (R-Winslow), who has experience in union operations; and State Rep. Sally Lewin (R-Eliot), who served on the Health and Human Services Committee.

Members of the Budget Working Group are very familiar with the programs in state government that make up the bulk of state spending. Governor-Elect LePage announced the following goals of his budget proposal:

Closing the billion dollar structural gap without raising taxes or resorting to gimmicks;

Addressing the debts owed Maine’s hospitals;

Properly addressing the liabilities of Maine’s pension systems; and

Identifying savings and reforms that make Maine government more affordable, more efficient and more job friendly.

Governor-Elect LePage also announced that his transition website would include a Budget Savings Page where anyone can upload ideas on how to reduce spending in state government. The Budget Savings Page can be found at www.LePageTrasition.com.

“Everyone pays the price when state government fails to live within its means,” said Governor-Elect LePage. “We can do better, and I hope anyone with a good idea will consider offering some thoughts on the solutions we need.” He encourages Mainers to visit his Budget Savings Page.

“My budget working group will be headed by Sawin Millet, a former commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services and a long-serving member of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee,” said Governor-Elect LePage. “When it comes to writing Maine’s next budget, there is no one more qualified than Sawin Millet to lead the effort.”

Assisting Millett in leading the working group is LePage’s transition team co-chair Tarren Bragdon. “A former legislator and policy expert, Tarren brings energy, expertise and new thinking to the budget writing process,” LePage said.

“I am very grateful that Senator Peter Mills will be serving on the Budget Working Group,” LePage said. “Peter has served several terms on the budget writing appropriations committee and is a respected, pragmatic voice in Augusta. Peter is also an expert on the unfunded liabilities of Maine’s pension system.

Mary Mayhew has spent nearly 20 years working on public policy in Maine, including an 11-year stint as vice president of the Maine Hospital Association. “I have made paying our debt to our hospitals a priority and welcome Mary’s expertise,” said LePage.

George Kerr served for eight years with distinction in the Maine House of Representatives. He served for three terms on the Appropriations Committee, including four years as the Democratic House Chair of the panel. George also is a job creator who owns and operates two businesses, including the Surf 6 Oceanfront Grill and Bar in Old Orchard Beach.

Ryan Low is the vice president of administration and chief financial officer at the University of Maine at Farmington. Prior to his current position, Ryan served as the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services under Governor Baldacci. Ryan has also been a top advisor to Democratic leaders in the Maine House of Representatives.

Mike Tyler is a national leader in the health care field. He is the former President of Sandy River Health System and brings hands-on experience in managing the finances of health care providers and facilities. He also served on Governor Angus King’s transition team.

State Rep. John Robinson of Raymond is a business leader leaving the House after three terms of service, which included four years on the Appropriations Committee and two years on the Business, Research and Economic Development Committees. In the private sector, he is the president of a real estate development firm and has been a CFO for two small Maine manufacturers.

Ken Fletcher is concluding four terms in the Maine House of Representatives. He is a proven manager and executive with a track record of changing how organizations are designed and perform. He also has experience in improving operations in union environments.

Sally Lewin is now concluding eight years in the Maine House of Representatives, where she served four terms with great distinction on the Health and Human Services Committee. She has a great understanding of Maine’s welfare programs. Sally also has 24-years of combined service on local and county budget committees.

The group will face a massive budget shortfall of $1.2 billion. Federal stimulus money, which helped plugged holes in Baldacci’s budget, is not expected in the next budget. The shortfall also assumes that the state will fund 55 percent of the cost of education, but that is not likely. Governor-Elect LePage has indicated that the state’s failed Dirigo health insurance program will mostly likely be eliminated.

The budget is due in the Legislature February 11. Budget group members have said that they will do more than simply present a balanced budget: they will strive to reform state government at all levels while maintaining services.

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