Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hearings won't change the need to CUT the budget!

Today and tomorrow are days I almost wish I could be in Augusta. The state’s Appropriations Committee is holding two days of public hearings into the proposed cuts in Maine’s budget to make up for a shortfall in revenue. The budget revisions were recommended by Governor Baldacci.

Today’s hearings were for proposed cuts on various educational programs and, from what I’ve heard, the hearings didn’t last a long time.

Tomorrow’s hearings, though, have the potential of being a different story. The Committee will hear discussions on cuts to various programs in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). A group is attempting to organize a rally at the State House and is getting people affected by the cuts to plead to keep the programs intact.

My guess is that the huge majority of hard working Mainers who pay the nation’s second highest tax burden to pay for the welfare others receive will be on job tomorrow and unable to attend the hearings. Therefore, they probably won’t have much if any representation.

The hearings will be well-orchestrated. We’ll hear case after case of how an individual has been “saved” by a particular program and how desperately needed the program is. In fact, with the help of Maine’s newspapers and TV stations, the tearing at the heartstrings has already begun.

I told you a few days ago that the scene we’ll see tomorrow was designed to give the Democrat controlled legislature a reason to raise taxes and fees to reduce the size of the cuts. The Republicans have resolved to fight the efforts and, perhaps, demand even deeper reductions. Governor Baldacci has publicly stated that he understands that Mainers have reached the limits of what they can take out of their pockets and will fight an attempt to raise taxes. He also says the cutting isn’t over as more cuts will be needed.

It’s too bad the policies of the state have put us in this position. We’ve been under Democrat rule for 30 years so it’s easy to blame the Democrats for the situation we face today, but the reality of it is the Republicans in Augusta have put up extremely little resistance and many of them joined in the creation of the crisis.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I say it again. The money crisis in the State of Maine was created by the series of Maine governors, and there were some in that group who were not Democrats, and the Legislatures where the Democrats have controlled the House for 30 years, but it’s been much closer for the Republicans in the Senate. They are the ones who turned Maine into a welfare state, a state where one statistic released a couple months ago indicated that about one quarter of all our people are on one form of welfare or another. They are the ones who must resolve the crisis.

And now, with a declining economy and revenue projections, some of which were foolish from the beginning, falling short, we are faced with a crisis. The one fact we all know, taxing us more will only make the problem worse. Cuts, and some very deep cuts, must be made in state spending. Tomorrow we’ll be seeing and hearing why the taxpayers should simply dig a little deeper.


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