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Bob Stone

No, It Ain't NAFTA!
By Bob Stone
Sep 16, 2003 - 10:11:00 PM

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Regular readers of my newspaper columns know that I am quite forceful in my complaints about Maineís liberal Democrat ruling class. Our Maine liberal legislators are probably the most liberal legislature in the nation and common sense demands that they be singled out for special criticism.

The Democrats donít like it one bit but why shouldnít they be criticized? In the last 30 years of liberal control of the Maine legislature, Augusta has been crafted into a perfect job-killing machine. High taxes, incredibly high health insurance costs and onerous workerís compensation costs have directly resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

It is fashionable for these liberal Democrats to blame President Bush, the North American Free Trade Agreement (ĎNAFTAí) and a myriad of other ailments for Maineís economic woes. But there is really no one to blame but themselves.

Maine has the worst business climate in the nation. This condition didnít just happen. It was built, law after law, tax after tax, by the people Maine voters send to Augusta every two years.

A "business" consists of owners, managers and staff. When our local legislators pass yet another law to cripple business, guess who takes it on the chin in the end? If you guessed average "Joe Employee", youíd be correct.

What is sad is the fact that the liberal Democrats "sell themselves" to the voters as working for the "little guy", the Joe Employees of the world. It is amazing that they have been getting away with this sham for so many years. I guess that happens when the local press corps fails to ask the tough questions and cannot see the connection between the liberals and the struggling economy.

Or maybe, just maybe, the local journalistic mavens share the anti-business attitudes of the liberal Democrats? Maybe they have some warped worldview that says Maine will be a better place with few jobs and fewer people? Maybe Maine should be transformed into a national park, set aside for Volvos with Massachusetts plates and people with Jarlsberg on their breath?

Whatever the reasoning, the plan is working. There seems to be very few people in Augusta who arenít acting as if there is no limit on the amount of the taxpayerís money available to spend.

The largesse doesnít stop at the legislative level. The State Board of Education just approved a concept for a new Cony High School in Augusta that is incredible in its cost. Would you believe $29.7 million?

There is no question that the existing Cony High needs replacing. It is located on a busy traffic circle and it is quite run down.

But, at 900 students, the new Cony will cost $33,000 per student if the initial cost estimates hold. Compare that to the new Brunswick High School opened in 1995. That school, estimated to cost $13 million and finally coming in at $19 million, houses 1,200 students. Thatís $15,800 per student.

If you have ever seen Brunswick High School, youíd probably agree with me that it is quite a facility. One can only imagine what the new Cony High will look like at twice the cost of Brunswick.

Oh, by the way, our friends, the local liberals, voted some time ago to mandate that 1% of the total construction cost of a new school be used to purchase "art". That is $297,000 that will go into buying paintings and sculptures to decorate the new school.

Itís nice to see that the State Board of Education and our local liberals are working so hard to watch out for our taxpayer dollars.

Is Maine too far gone to save? No, but it isnít going to happen with the liberal Democrats in charge of the Blaine House, the Senate and the House. And, unfortunately, it isnít going to happen unless the Maine Republican Party stops buying into these risky, wild schemes of the liberals, like Dirigo Health.

Business in Maine will probably get worse before it gets better. Too bad, because it is quite clear as to what is needed. Lower taxes, a spending cap, lower health insurance premiums would be easily attainable and a positive start.

Donít expect anything positive for a while. You see, the majority of Maineís voters like high taxes and oodles of government spending. Just look at whom they elect every two years!

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