Last Friday, Maine's Legislature left town having failed to pass an emergency supplemental budget and without any plan in place to provide relief for Maine taxpayers. Maine citizens should feel insulted. They probably won't however, because this pattern of governance (or lack thereof) has become all-too familiar: what passes for governance these days is just a lot of talk, wasted time without solutions, and empty promises from the Governor's office.
It's time to name names, and I for one hold the majority party responsible. The Governor asked for and got significant support from Republican leadership in the Legislature for his biennium budget last year, but when the going got tough, he was the first to accuse Republicans of being partisan. Now it is time for him to take some heat for his own party. Democrats have monolithic control over Maine's government. They control the House, the Senate and the Governor's office. They get to set the agenda, but they can't even get their own house in order. They've promised tax reform and tax relief. We have neither.
Republicans have offered solutions only to have them ignored. When the Governor first took office, he told me he wanted to fix the problems in Maine. He said he shared my and our fellow citizens concerns over high taxes and overregulation. He said he wanted to get Maine back into the mainstream. He asked for my help and I gave it to him. I not only voted for his first budget, I encouraged others to do the same. I now sadly regret having done that.
After 15 months in office, the Governor's budget, which was filled with false assumptions and empty promises, has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns. And the "no new taxes" Governor will have increased Maine's tax burden by more than $169 million in increased fees, fines and taxes. He does not like to call them taxes, but it's still money from the pockets of Maine citizens.
Failing to conform to federal tax laws will cost us $48 million. Increases in fines and fees will take another $22 million. Various additional taxes will add $99 million more to the cost of living or doing business in Maine. This is irresponsible. The majority party has pushed for all this and more. And Legislative Democrats want even more taxes to feed their spending habit. The Democrats in the House are calling for higher taxes on such things as cigarettes and alcohol. The Senate Democrats want to raise the sales tax. The Republicans in the Legislature are united as never before in saying that we have taxed people enough and it is time to stop spending money as if there is an unlimited supply. We insist the Governor begin to lead his party and the people of Maine by saying no to any increase in taxes, period. We have enough money to operate state government efficiently. Revenues are up 8% already over last year.
What we need now is discipline and courage.
The thinking in Augusta has to change. During the debate in the Senate over raising the minimum wage, Sen. Stanley revealed the flawed thinking of his party by saying that forcing business to increase wages would result in more tax revenue. His party has already tried that. It results in fewer jobs and the devastation of our economy. It is that mentality that has pulled Maine into the financial mess we are experiencing. Frankly, it is frightening to hear the chair of the Taxation Committee talking that way.
Maine's Legislature has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Revenues grow more than $100 million a year due to the natural growth of our economy. Maine citizens would like to know what happens to that money every year. Democrats insist on spending it all, plus just a little bit more.
This majority party and this Governor need to be held accountable for the ever-increasing tax burden being forced on Maine people. Now is the time for the Governor to stand firm. Now is the time for the Democrat leadership to put a stop to increases in taxing and spending.
Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) is the Republican Leader in the Senate.