AUGUSTA — Hoping to reset the tone in the battle for control of the Legislature, Maine Republican leaders said Tuesday they kept their promises to voters by cutting taxes, reforming regulations and passing balanced budgets.
The leaders also sought to distinguish the first Republican-controlled legislature since the mid-1960s from a dysfunctional Congress, saying Maine’s GOP achieved those accomplishments with bipartisan support.
The GOP leaders held a news conference as the two parties tangle for control of the House and Senate in the Nov. 6 election. House Speaker Robert Nutting of Oakland, Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry and other leaders also handed out a glossy, 16-page booklet outlining areas where they say they Republicans kept their promises to voters during the last two years.
Democrats were not impressed.
“For two years Republicans have been running Augusta, now they’re running from their record. The fact is that their policies and priorities have made it harder to live, work, and invest in Maine,” Assistant Democratic Leader Justin Alfond said in a statement.
“Political theater won’t change the fact that too many Mainers are still out of work and that while the rest of the country has figured out ways to emerge from the recession, Maine’s economy has shrunk. Are we moving forward or backwards under the leadership of the Republican Party?” asked Alfond. The Portland Democrat said that in 2011 alone, Maine lost 1,300 jobs and 53,000 Maine people remain out of work.
The Republicans said their efforts led to the largest tax cut ever in Maine, a $1.7 billion debt reduction in the state pension system, more affordable insurance rates through a state health insurance overhaul and a more friendly business environment due to eased regulations.
Voters “gave us a chance” in the 2010 elections, said Nutting. “We listened to what our constituents were saying.”
Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney of Springvale, who led a committee that reviewed many of the regulatory reforms, said that work “set the tone for the session,” adding that many of the most important bills were passed with bipartisan support.