Part of the two-year budget that passed shortly before the Legislature’s adjournment included repeal of the “circuitbreaker program,” which many elderly and low-income Maine residents depend on to make ends meet.

Homeowners and renters who qualify for the program were eligible to receive an annual refund of up to $1,600. In the budget, however, the circuitbreaker was replaced with the Property Tax Fairness Credit, which provides a maximum refund of $300. Those 70 and older can receive up to $400.

Many constituents have told me they have learned that they will not get their usual refund this year.

This money has allowed them to pay a light bill, buy groceries, fill their oil tank or take care of some other of life’s necessities.

This is one of the many reasons I did not vote in favor of this budget.

Despite the income tax cut passed in the previous session, Maine continues to have one of the highest tax burdens in the entire nation. The circuitbreaker program provided some relief for those Mainers who need it most; and that is now, for the most part, gone.

The budget also included a half-cent increase in the state sales tax, which will affect all of us by making many of the everyday products we purchase more expensive.

I believe these tax increases stem from the same problem: The state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

We need to look at government programs, such as welfare, that have grown beyond our ability to support them before we start targeting taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money.

In the next legislative session, I will support a full restoration of the circuitbreaker program so we can restore some much-needed relief to those among us who need it most.

Sen. Rod Whittemore

R-Skowhegan