[The Appropriations Committee will hold hearings all day today and on Thursday and Friday, December 15 and 16 in Room 228 of the State House. Faith leaders will gather for prayer vigils from noon to 2 p.m. each day.]
December 14, 2011
Good day Senator Rosen, Representative Flood and members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs.
I am Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Maine. On behalf of the members of our 65 congregations and our other communities of faith across the state, I encourage you to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity and rights of poor and vulnerable people in the State of Maine.
As people of faith who take the example and teachings of Jesus to heart, we believe that our the budget is not simply a balance sheet of income and expenses but a moral document that reflects the values of the people who fund it and benefit from it. The moral measure of this debate is how the most needy among us – “the least of these” – fare in our society.
Those Mainers who will be most affected by the cuts proposed – low-income children, the elderly, the disabled, those newly arrived to our shores – do not have powerful voices so we, as people of faith, have the obligation to help them to be heard and to join with others to insist that programs that provide for the basic supports of a stable life be maintained.
But we don’t see this as the work of the government alone. Episcopalians in Maine take very seriously our responsibility to partner with government, other churches, and community organizations to make strong the social fabric of our local communities. In addition to caring for the spiritual well-being of those in need, all across the state we are engaged in feeding and clothing people and keeping them warm. We assist those looking for jobs and those who struggle with homelessness. We offer children safe and active spaces to go after school and in the summertime.
While we are engaging in loving our neighbors, the challenges that low-income people face around childcare, transportation, housing, medical needs, and employment are often beyond the scope of what we can do. We believe a civil society such as ours has the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us and provide a framework to assist them in achieving stable and successful lives.
If enacted, the proposed cuts: to eliminate MaineCare coverage for working parents and childless adults, prescription drug and health care assistance to the elderly and people with disabilities, cuts to Head Start and the Child Care Subsidy program as well as the drastic cuts proposed to support those with mental illness – these cuts will fray the safety net for thousands of Mainers. But that won’t make their problems go away. Our emergency services, hospitals, and law-enforcement agencies will be pressed even harder for costlier intervention even as their own resources are diminished.
The people of faith in Maine are committed to continuing to love and serve our neighbors in new and creative ways. This is what we have always done. In the Episcopal Church we are asked at our baptism and as each new member is baptized: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? The response to both questions is: “I will, with God’s help.”
That is my hope and prayer for each of you. May you be graced with the wisdom and strength to serve all people in Maine.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns with you today.
Because Bishop Steve was unable to attend the hearing, Heidi Shott, Canon for Communications and Social Justice, presented this testimony in his stead.
Click here for details on how you can participate in this week’s Appropriations Committee hearings and prayer vigils at the State House and a summary of proposed budget cuts.