chamber of commerce

Republican Response to the Governor's Budget Address
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
by Senator Republican Leader Paul T. Davis - As the Senate Republican leader, it's my responsibility to provide a response to the Governor's budget address this evening. But you know what? Maine's problems are so vast and serious that a mere response to the Governor's address seems rather simplistic and petty.

Maine is at a crisis. Frankly, I'm not sure all my colleagues realize just how serious things have become in many parts of Maine.

We aren't just losing jobs, we are losing our young people, our families, churches are closing, and schools are shutting down.

I have a town in my district -----Atkinson----that can't afford to be town anymore and asked me to sponsor a bill to help them de-organize. And I won't be surprised if there are more towns headed down that route.

Last year we led the nation in the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Our individual tax burden leads the nation and, sadly, we are at the bottom of the pack when it comes to income.

Currently, 1 in 5 Mainers are on the state's health insurance welfare program - Medicaid. In July that number will increase to 1 in 4.

I say these things because it's time to sound the alarm in Maine.

We can't keep having these polite conversations, while rural Maine disappears.

It is immoral for the State Government to continue to pretend that we can spend our way out of this mess. WE can't.

If the last 30 years have proven one thing-it is this: More government spending has resulted in fewer opportunities for Maine people.

However, it doesn't have to be that way-and the time to act is now: I call upon the Governor and my legislative colleagues to dispense with the polite chatter and get right to the point.

And the point is, Maine has a serious spending problem-most years we spend 2 - 3 times more than the rate of inflation-and at least twice the rate of income growth. Every year-year in ---year out-government takes more and more of what Maine people earn.

We have to put a mechanism in place at ALL levels of government that protects Maine workers from seeing their paychecks eroding-year in and year out. We need a constitutional amendment that limits the amount government spending can grow each year. State government has been growing faster than our paychecks for far to long and it is time to stop.

We need predictability and stability in our budgets-
* We can't shower school districts with cash in the good times-then tell them to close schools and cut teachers whenever there are tight budgets
* We can't expand Medicaid, offer more services and increase eligibility one year-and then cut services and kick people off the next---

People want to know what to expect each year-they deserve that. The way we do things now-spend every penny we get-and then---is a disaster for Maine people.

We also have an exciting opportunity to hold government more accountable. My friends, Senator Ed Youngblood of Brewer and Representative David Trahan of Waldoboro, borrowed an idea from several other states - - - and the idea is simple. We are going to hold state agencies accountable year round with an independent agency whose sole purpose is to stop government waste, save taxpayer money and make sure that state agencies are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Those are the types of reform we need: Real reforms with real results.

Let me close by saying that, I think Governor Baldacci was exactly right, one year ago, when he said in his inaugural address..."When it comes to state spending, it can no longer be business as usual. The boom-and-bust cycles of state spending and growth have been a roller coaster ride, and it's time to get off." Amen to that.

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