Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I wonder how long the state budget will last!

April Fools’ Day. And Maine’s Democrats say we are the fools. They have passed (one Republican crossed over the line) what they call a budget fix to get the state’s budget back into balance. A shortfall in revenue had put the state roughly 200-million dollars in the red. Understand, though, that the budget had increased by almost 500-million dollars, so the state is still spending more this year than last.

I’m not going into all the band aid changes that make up the new budget. A couple items need mentioning. First, the one legislative group that finds savings in state spending has been all but axed. OPEGA, Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, has shown savings of nearly 20-million dollars in the past couple of years and consistently under spends its own budget. It would appear the Democrats don’t like to find ways to save money, especially if their programs are affected.

The budget has cut 34-million dollars from the education portion of the budget. It certainly doesn’t take much effort to figure out where that money will have to come from in local budgets. Yep! Property tax increases. The state may save it, but the people of Maine certainly won’t.

But no where do the Democrats address the root problem. Spending. Reducing the welfare accounts to get them just a little closer to national averages could save many more millions than the shortfall. Reducing the size of the Department of Health and Human Services by staff reductions, especially in the upper echelon, would certainly help. Like many Mainers, I believe nearly every department could be reduced for huge savings.

Sadly, there’s an excellent chance the problem hasn’t been corrected. There’s still more than a year to go for this budget. Spending by the citizens continues to drop so there’s a very good chance there’ll be more shortfall within the year, perhaps even before this fiscal year ends in June. Then what will the good Democrats do?

After ramming through their budget, and the Democrats own the whole thing no matter how they may attempt to spin it now, the Legislature adjourned. Governor John Baldacci, who is in joint ownership for the budget, signed it into law. The governor then called the Legislature back into Special Session this morning to deal with the other potential laws that have been submitted. That was part of the gimmick about which I wrote a few weeks ago.

Someday, Mainers will realize that they pay more taxes than people in 48 of the 49 other states. We pay higher welfare costs than anyone else. We have the highest insurance rates than all but one other state. We have one of the poorest business climates in the nation which is the main reason we don’t have higher paying jobs here. The list can go on and on. There is, of course, a solution. Stop looking at our legislators as friends and neighbors. We must realize that it’s not just the other guy’s legislator who’s costing us all this money. It’s ours, too.

Examine their voting records and if you want to have a better standard of living for yourself, try a new batch of legislators in November. Start now and become involved in your local politics. That’s where it begins. Learn more about your representative and senator. And vote in November. A non-vote is just as powerful, but only for those who want to tax and spend.


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