Maine legislators and the Sun Journal want the state to borrow money.
The elected politicians have prepared an attractive bond package offering jobs, improving infrastructure, supporting education, offering health protection and, most convincing, also offering federal money. The federal money is available if Maine is willing to invest in road and bridge repair and provide funds for revolving loans for improving or repairing drinking and wastewater systems.
As a persuasive package, it doesn’t get much better than this. But, people should be skeptical of their legislators and, in this instance, even this newspaper.
Why should Maine borrow money?
Glib politicians describe it as investing, they fail to describe it as a tax increase and they remind people that borrowing is normal, that people borrow to buy a home. I did, but I was in my 20s; I doubt it will be necessary when I’m as old as the state of Maine. And, the investing they describe is not for the new and the innovative; it is for the ongoing and perpetual repair of roads and bridges.
As individuals, people shouldn’t borrow to pay their light bills after spending the household money on potato chips and beer.
There are two questions on the ballot not offering matching federal funds. The state wants to borrow money for the University of Maine. The university is a spoiled dependent of the state. Taxpayers provide the university nearly $200 million annually. I doubt university officials spend it wisely — their football program loses around $7 million annually. Bond approval is like borrowing money for football and other inefficiencies.
Another bond issue is to purchase land for outdoor recreation. I am somewhat ambivalent on this issue, but I don’t like borrowing money unnecessarily and I am somewhat suspicious of the details.
If there is a single persuasive reason why voters shouldn’t authorize borrowing money, it is because legislators, as part of their regular duties, could themselves have authorized the money. That is so basic, so important, it is worth repeating: Legislators could have authorized spending state money for each of those projects.
What conceivable reason could legislators use to justify not authorizing sufficient funds for road repairs or water systems, especially since it would release federal funds?
Concerned citizens should confirm with their representatives that they are and were empowered to authorize these funds. A yes or no answer should be required; if they are asked why they didn’t, they’ll dazzle us with their explanations.
Politicians, both Democrat and Republican, always have good reasons for not doing the right thing and persuasive reasons for doing the wrong thing.
Voters should not authorize the bond package; we shouldn’t make ourselves responsible for the concomitant tax increase.
Richard Sabine, Lewiston