I have discussed the Maine budget shortfall on several occasions. I used one on-line forum to give ideas on how the state can cut its budget to resolve the issue. Yesterday’s discussion explained that a new revenue forecast has doubled the amount of money this state is overspending or over budgeting. It was a posting today by the Editor of As Maine Goes that reminded me of something by Charley Reese taken from the Orlando Sentinel Star newspaper and sent to me via e-mail from a friend. It describes the current situation in Augusta to a T.
First, Editor Fish posted a memo from Maine House Speaker Glenn Cummings to House Democrats. In the memo, Cummings blames just about everyone for the state’s current budget situation except the Democrats, the party that’s in power in Augusta and has been for about 30 years. To read the memo, visit AMG and Scroll down there a bit.
What Spkr. Cummings is apparently trying to do is help the Democrats defend themselves from what I would call some stupid spending and giving in to every special interest group that ever existed in Maine. Charley Reese would say that Spkr. Cummings was simply being a politician creating a massive mess and then passing the blame on to everyone else. Reese wrote in his article “THE 545 PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR AMERICA 'S WOES” about the Federal Government and how it has created problems facing the nation and has the power to change things around.
Although he specifically was discussing branches of the federal government, what he says is accurate for Maine government, too. Paraphrasing Reese, you and I have no control over what the limits of eligibility for welfare are. Those limits are set by the Legislature. You and I can’t change them. But the Legislature can. Bringing our welfare doles, the highest in the nation, to national averages would cut millions, yea, perhaps billions out of the state budget.
You and I have no control over the state budget. President Bush has no control over the Maine budget. Congress has no control over the Maine budget. Governor Baldacci proposes a budget and Spkr. Cummings and his legislative cohorts decide the spending limits. They alone are responsible for that budget and cannot pass that responsibility on to you and me.
You and I don’t create income. We don’t make stupid decisions to include $25 million dollars in revenue from claiming the money from unused gift cards issued to/by Mainers from around the country and got nothing in return. State government did. You and I can’t raise taxes to a level where many Mainers no longer can afford to buy things. Since the economy is down, there are fewer taxes coming in. I’d like to say you and I can’t spend money we don’t have, but I’ve heard that some of us do. But when we do, we have to pay for it by cutting someplace. The State can’t legally spend money it doesn’t have as our Constitution requires a balanced budget. When the state does spend more than it has, it, like we, must make cuts. The state, however, doesn’t like cutting and raises taxes and fees thus lowering its income.
So, I’d suggest to Spkr. Cummings that he and his fellow legislators stop the talk and walk the walk. The blame game isn’t going to solve Maine economic woes. If he were here, he’d probably ask me just what services I am willing to live without as another traditional trick of politicians is to try to try to deflect the problem to us. But we have no control over the changes. The Maine Legislature has that control. It created the situation. It must now correct it and start this state on the way back to the right track.
I will say raising taxes isn’t the answer. That would mean even less revenue for the state adding to the shortfall of revenue it now has, partially as a result of outlandish taxes. Ending Maine as the nanny state, creating a business friendly atmosphere, ending the prohibitive rules that cause tops in the nation medical costs, admitting failure and eliminating Dirigo, looking at successes elsewhere in other states (New Hampshire comes to mind) and bringing those successes here are among some of the items at which the state can look to find answers to our economic woes.
If our legislators really want to learn of ways to cut the budget and how Mainers really feel about the state’s spending, they should read the news articles on line. Nearly all, if not all, publications that post their articles allow comments at the end of their on-line stories, and those comments usually have many ways the state can save money.