Hazy, hot and humid sunny days, cool nights and some of the best Maine grown products I have had in a very long time! Don’t you just hate the summer? Just kidding of course! Hope everyone is well and enjoying one the best summers we have had in a very long time! I am not only referencing the weather when I say that, but also the general outlook for Maine’s businesses and relief for working folks. Last month the Political Animals reviewed and graded the Legislature and will now review and grade the governor's initiatives and the changes he has proposed to the Legislature. I would suggest you visit www.maine.gov, Office Maine Governor Paul LePage and read his “vision” statement on the home page.
Gov. LePage was sworn in on January 5, and covered many issues during his inauguration speech. The most memorable paragraph was: “The word “people” appears in the Constitution 49 times. You cannot find a single mention of the words politics, Republican, Democrat, Green or Independent in 37 pages of the preamble, articles and sections of our Constitution. The framers had it right. People come before politics.”
Looking at these first -- a little over 200 -- days of his administration, what policies have been implemented that support his “people before politics” pledge? (Just an FYI for you detractors, he could not implement some of the proposed changes without the approval of the Maine Legislature.)
There is no doubt the governor is a no-nonsense type person that speaks the plain truth! That is who he is and does not filter his remarks with the political correctness we are all accustomed in this day and age. I believe the mainstream press refers to this as gravitas (sugar-coat things so they sound better). I personally feel this is a breathe of fresh air and long overdue. The fun part is watching the mainstream press and the “can’t-we-all-get-along” politicians have their meltdowns and hissy fits (eight senators signing a letter comes to mind), but I digress…
So let’s get to the meat’n potatoes of the accomplishments of Gov. LePage:
Jan. 6, the governor signed several executive orders that changed our state from a sanctuary state for illegals, implemented a true hiring freeze, limit spending of state government and ease environmental regulations for communities. During the same time the governor opened his office on Saturdays so he could hear from the working folks and traveled the state on a “red-tape tour.” This gave business owners the opportunity to express their concerns on restrictive regulations that affect the way they are forced to conduct their businesses. The “red-tape tour” produced LD 1, which the Legislature passed later in the session and signed into law by Gov. LePage. (Not bad for the first month)
February 2011 was ushered in with the supplemental budget, which paid Maine hospitals and medical providers $346 Million due for services provided. The Baldacci administration and the Democratically controlled Legislature had been promising to pay the hospitals and providers for years of provided services, but lacked the ability or will to prioritize the state’s finances. We were in danger of losing the matching federal funds if these bills were not paid. Funny how the governor “found” the funds to pay the state’s bills owed to the providers. He also found about $1.7 million to put into the classrooms of our schools.
February also brought on a budget proposal by the governor to reform income taxes paid by individuals and businesses, recouple Maine’s tax code with the federal code for business depreciation, estate tax (death tax), child tax credit and keep our mortgage deduction in place. The $203 million tax-cut package was the largest in Maine’s history. The package passed by the Legislature was approximately $153 million -- the largest in Maine’s history. The governor gets an A+
Welfare reform: The proposed budget included a 5-year limit on benefits, legal immigration status to be eligible, a 90-day residency requirement, drug testing for recipients and several other changes to the current Cadillac system we have in Maine -- the third-most generous in the country. The final passage by the Legislature did not include the governor's entire proposal. Check out LD 1043 for the items which finally passed. Governor gets an A+
Pension reform: The governor's proposal would cut our payments to the pension system with some moderate changes in payments to retirees. This is not the fault of the retirees, but if nothing were done we could not sustain the system, leaving many retirees without any pension for retirement. The current 2012 payment will be $449 million and continue to increase. By 2021 the payment would explode to $849. The proposed changes by the governor would decrease that payment to approximately $291 million, a savings of $558 million to the taxpayers. The proposal requested current retirees to forgo their cost-of-living adjustments for three years and then cap the COLA’s at 2 percent a year after. This will also change the retirement age from 62 to 65 for all new employees hired. Current employees are asked to increase their contribution from 7.65 percent to 9.65 percent. I realize this would be a sacrifice for many, but, as the liberals are always claiming, we need shared sacrifice. Governor gets an A+
Education funding: Gov. LePage promised to get more money into the classroom because it should be about the students and well-qualified teachers. The governor’s budget included an increase in education funding of $63 million. The budget proposal also increased funding in the second year of the biennium budget by $19 million dollars. The Baldacci administration did not included an increase in the second year of of the biennial budget, only if there was a surplus.
The Legislature also joined 40 other states by passing legislation allowing charter schools in the state. There will be one new charter school every year for the next 10 years. The governor gets an A+
Health Insurance reform: The Legislature passed the bill allowing us to shop across state lines for health insurance the same as we do for car and homeowners insurance. This will create competition in the market and help to bring rates down considerably. The estimate for savings should cut premiums close to a third of what we pay today! Governor gets an A+
A poll released in early February found that these issues topped the list that concerned Maine people the most and why the reasons they voted for Gov. LePage.
What is the response from the Democrats? The “Get Real Maine” listening tour…have they really listened to us in the past 30-plus years? What makes you think they will change now? Remember what the house Democratic leader Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, said: “My party hates tax cuts, just hates them!” This said while meeting with the editorial board and accompanied by Rep. Peggy Rotondo at the Portland Press Herald. The old Democratic playbook of “soak the rich (class warfare) and redistribution of taxpayer money, has been a colossal failure. No new bold ideas, just tired and old ideas!
Regardless of the critics and detractors, Gov. LePage continues to move forward with his promise of “People before Politics!” I say: “Give 'em hell, governor and keep fighting for us taxpayers!”
That’s my opinion let me hear yours! I can be reached on Face Book or email me firstname.lastname@example.org .
Scott Lansley is a former legislator, Sabattus Selectman and Political Director for Maine Taxpayers United.