Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And now, back to business!

Good chance I’d put last night down as a cool one. I didn’t get up to see what the temperature was, but this morning it was 25 degrees and usually this is the time when we get our lowest readings.

The Holiday is over and it was a good one. There are fewer leaves in our yard today than there were yesterday. I say “fewer” rather than “no” because we still have a couple of trees still shedding. There is a good chance, though, that those that fall now will have to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, in Augusta, the Maine Legislature has selected the people to lead the respective parties and the Legislature itself in the coming session. The legislators are faced with several problems. Among them, but certainly not the only ones, are a potential revenue shortfall and Dirigo health plan. There are also four new citizen initiatives to be dealt with.

The two big issues, though, could cause considerable headaches for the legislators. Already faced with a revenue shortfall for the remainder of the current budget, Gov. Baldacci has called for every department to find ways to cut ten percent from their current budget. That was for a revenue shortfall of $150-million or more. Some of those cuts may require legislative action.

The other revenue shortfall is for the next biennium. That has now reached at least $500-million and seems to be growing daily. If the projection remains true, the legislature will either have to make drastic cuts in departmental budgets or raise taxes. They tried raising one tax for the Dirigo program last summer only to have the people of Maine reject that measure soundly last week. Will they raise taxes again anyway? Why not? We sent the same people back to the Legislature.

The two departments that consume the most tax money, education and welfare, will probably get hit the hardest. School departments throughout the state are already feeling the pinch. The Department of Education has already notified school districts that the districts will receive much less money this year than earlier anticipated and that the budget could be flat lined for the next two years. This is coming in the midst of a state law requiring even more expenditures to consolidate school districts.

That defeated tax measure was designed to fund the Dirigo health plan. Both the governor and the Democrat legislators say Dirigo will continue. And it could be by a new tax on beverages and insurance claims. But that was just defeated, you say. Ignoring the wishes of the people is nothing new to the Democrats in the legislature.

Then there are those four new citizen initiatives which have already collected the necessary signatures to require action and have been submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation. They include a repeal of the school consolidation law, a requirement to ease state mandates that prevent people from seeking lower priced health insurance in other states, a reduction in excise taxes on vehicles and encouraging the use of “green” cars, and a new Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR II).

We undoubtedly will offer our simple thoughts and comments on all these individually and much more in the weeks and months to come.


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