There is an old saying that goes -- In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity -- and frankly that is how I have tried to approach my job in the Legislature. And given the difficulties we now face here in Maine—the opportunities must be pretty darn plentiful.
My concern is that instead of seizing the opportunities to make Maine a better place, too many in the Legislature confuse motion for progress.
A rocking horse keeps moving but doesn’t make any progress.
Maine can’t afford to ride that rocking horse any longer. There is real work to be done, and it won’t happen until our Governor, Governor Baldacci and the Maine Legislature are able to tell the difference between motion and progress.
The latest Tax reform bill – it is all about confusing motion for progress. In fact, there is so much motion that you may need a motion sickness pill just to read through it.
- The tax reform bill gives you a larger homestead exemption –but in the very same plan tells local government to find a way to pay for it.
- It includes spending limits, then gives the state, counties, municipalities and schools an easy way to get around them.
- It funds schools, then changes the formula so that half the towns in Maine will actually get less help.
The bold tax reform plan amounts to little more than ducking responsibility and shifting the tax burden from one pocket to another. And Politicians take the credit. Maine taxpayers get the bill.
It’s difficult, at times, to explain the difference between policies of motion - and policies of progress.
- Progress would be letting Maine people buy health insurance for half price across the border in New Hampshire.
- Progress would be controlling government SPENDING in a meaningful way so that we will have lower property taxes tomorrow.
- Progress would be funding education first, and new programs last. Just as the voters told us to do back in June of last year.
- Progress would be lowering tax rates - period.
- Progress would be living within a budget Maine people can afford.
You have heard much of this before…
In the Governor’s last state of the state address, he told us that “our tax burden is among the highest.” He was right. The sad part is -- the Governor is still right -- our tax burden is still among the highest in the nation.
One year ago, the Governor told Maine people “We must find ways to deliver these services while reducing general taxes.” “I appreciate how difficult these choices are - but they must be made.” But our taxes have not been reduced. In fact, they are worse. We have increased taxes and called them fees. And calling them fees does not make them easier to bear.
I believe that Maine’s best days are ahead of us. But it means that we must make the right choices now.
- The right choice is to have real spending limits that will reduce the tax burden on Maine people.
- The right choice is to require a two-thirds vote and voter approval in order to raise taxes.
- The right choice is to give Maine people the same low cost health insurance available in many states across the country.
- The right choice is to stop borrowing money to pay for ongoing programs.
In America, the sun shines first on Maine. My wife Patty and I want to be sure that our kids and grandkids are able to stay here and live and work in a Maine that shines brightly with progress.
Good night, and thank you.