Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's time to cut the state budget

The Maine legislature returned to Augusta, our state capitol, today. This is second session of the current legislature . It is designed to correct problems that have arisen from the first session last January through June and to take care of “emergencies” that have arisen since it adjourned.

Emergencies have arisen. Among them a 95-million dollar revenue shortfall in the state budget. There also have been voices crying “foul” over governor mandated consolidations in the schools and jails. I'll have some personal thoughts on these in the upcoming days.

The governor had said on local radio last week and today in Augusta that he would not accept any increases in taxes or fees to pay for the shortfall. The governor is calling for cuts in several departmental budgets and recently issued an executive order curtailing spending in those departments. He wants the curtailing to become official cuts.

We live in the heaviest taxed state in the union, except, perhaps and I haven’t check recently if it’s still true, one other state. I say it’s darn well about time our government cut that state budget. If I run into a deficit, as I have as most of us have, I have to cut my spending. The state simply raises taxes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply raise our income if we needed more money. You and I must prioritize our needs and wants with income in times of economic difficulties. It’s about time the legislature did the same. Except the legislature will miss that very important word, “prioritize.”

But, the president of the Senate said today that the state has already cut all the fat out of the budget it can and she said taxes will be “on the table.” The leader in the House said he was willing to listen to the cuts, but he wouldn’t rule out tax increases. This could be a major clash between a governor who has said one thing and a Legislature which might have a different opinion.

Many people in Maine, including me, feel that one way to save millions of dollars would be to cancel the governor’s proclamation which effectively makes us a sanctuary state, the nation's only one. Anyone can come to Maine and start collecting welfare, medical services, a driver’s license, and many other services without even being a resident. Our department of human services says that doesn’t happen, yet somewhere in the vicinity of over 5000 drivers’ licenses have been issued with the social security number of 999-99-9999. That same department has “lost” more than 8 million dollars and no one has been held accountable.

The governor has called for the privatization of the DHHS computer system, DHHS is the department mentioned above, which has cost the state more than 50 million dollars in attempts to make the current one work.

Many people are asking where our money has gone. We get no answers. I’m not an economist so I don’t have the definitive answers. Like most Mainers, I simply know that it shouldn’t cost more per person in a state with only about 1.3 million people than in any other state in the Union. This will make an interesting legislative session. And I’ll be back with more as it progresses.


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