I ran for office because of a desire to serve the public. I want to make Maine a better place, from top to bottom, for all of us. With the announcement of Gov. Paul LePage’s budget, however, achieving that goal has become much more difficult.

The governor’s proposal calls for $425 million in cuts to our local communities. A two-year suspension of the state revenue-sharing program, which for decades has provided vital funds for our local communities, a loss of the homestead property tax exemption, grave reductions in the circuit-breaker program and the loss of certain excise taxes will force our towns to make the difficult decisions that should be made in Augusta.

Municipalities will be forced to raise property taxes significantly to meet their obligations. With Maine’s economy still recovering from the most recent recession, now is not the time for the state to pass its budgetary problems along to local towns and property owners. It should be up to the state to find a solution to its budget challenges.

If this proposal goes unchallenged, it will be the elderly, working families, small-business owners, and the poorest Mainers who suffer. One thing is clear; this proposal protects the unfunded tax breaks included in the governor’s first budget that largely benefit the wealthy. Gov. LePage has made it clear that advancing Maine’s economy and growing the middle class is not his priority.

Maine was the only New England state whose economy shrank in 2011. Most common-sense folks understand that economies grow from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down. We must develop a plan that will spur economic growth, foster a strong middle class and protect our neediest citizens. Unfortunately, the governor’s budget accomplishes none of these things.

It’s as though the governor is afraid of making the tough decisions. Instead of proposing a fair and well thought-out budget, he is handing Mainers and their communities a bill for $425 million. Lawmakers are sent to Augusta to make tough decisions, not pass them off to the people who put them there.

This is a tax shift, plain and simple. And it’s one that’s going to hit the poor and the middle class especially hard.

Luckily the governor’s budget is not the last word. The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will begin the careful process of reviewing every line of the proposal. All sensible people can foresee the alarming repercussions of the governor's budget, and I hope there is a bipartisan understanding that this is not how the majority of Maine people want their state to operate. Times are tough, but this is not the time to come down on Maine families and local communities.

I was elected by the people of my district because they understood I wanted to work to help bring prosperity to our community. Gov. LePage’s budget will make that work harder. I am hopeful that we in the Legislature will work together to take on that hard work and reach a fair solution.