Time to get back to basics, use real-world experience

Posted April 23, 2010, at 6:27 p.m.

“Gentlemen, this is a football.”

At the start of each season, NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi would enter the locker room for a team meeting, hold the pigskin in the air, and famously utter that phrase.

His point was to remind his players that the game starts with knowing the fundamentals. Regardless if the team had just won the Super Bowl or finished last season with an average record, his message was that success always starts with understanding and executing the basics.

In Maine, families and businesses suffer because our state government ignores the basics of what makes a private sector economy healthful.

Maine spends too much on state programs that are not evaluated or measured properly; our residents pay one of the highest tax burdens in the country to pay for the overspending; and businesses are subjected to overly complex and costly regulations.

As a result, our private sector economy has been shrinking, along with the tax revenues it generates to fund our state education programs, infrastructure and other important priorities.

Rather than addressing the root causes of our poor economy, Augusta reacts to growing deficits with more of the same policies that created the problem in the first place: budgeting gimmicks, borrowing more and stuffing hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington into bloated programs that badly need reform.

To end our continuous budget crisis and bring long-term prosperity to our residents, Maine must refocus on executing the basics.

No more gimmicks. No more overspending. No more fiscal mismanagement.

Gentlemen, this is a budget.

First, we need to get our fiscal house in order. That means having the discipline to spend only what we take in. Families and businesses are asked to do this every day. We should expect the same from our state government.

We need to audit every department, agency and program to eliminate waste and inefficiencies. Then institute objective performance measures into our programs to evaluate success or failure, and find savings.

Second, once spending on programs is reduced at least to the averages of other states, then we can lower taxes in a meaningful way to help our families and encourage business investment in Maine.

Third, we must reduce the cost and complexity of doing business in Maine. Our regulatory system is a tangled web of rules and policies that are often needless, inconsistently enforced and expensive.

Businesses are not the enemy. They employ our people and create opportunities for families to improve their qualities of life.

Augusta should not treat Maine businesses like villains to be taxed and regulated out of the state.

By focusing on the fundamentals that create a thriving private sector economy, we will send a strong message to potential business investment that Maine will be well-managed going forward.

Admittedly, getting back to basics is not sexy. There’s no ribbon-cutting for fiscal prudence.

Consequently, career politicians will resist doing the right thing, as they have for decades.

Which is why we can no longer afford a career politician, from either Augusta or Washington, to lead our state.

Our next governor must be a competent manager from the private sector who knows firsthand how tough it is to successfully start and run a business in Maine.

He or she should appoint professional managers, not politicians, to run our departments and agencies and hold them accountable for wisely spending taxpayer dollars.

To lead this state, we need someone with extensive experience in finance who understands the basics of how an economy works.

I have spent my entire professional life in the private sector, safely investing resources, properly managing budgets and creating good jobs.

I know how to handle the ups and downs of an economy without overspending, taking on more debt or relying on budget gimmicks.

My experience has been in the real world dealing directly with the serious fiscal, economic and job-related problems Maine faces today.

As governor, I will lead Maine toward greater long-term prosperity by addressing the root causes of our struggling economy. It’s time to get back to basics.

Next year, Maine reopens under new management.

Bruce Poliquin is a business owner and manager and a Republican candidate for governor. For more information, visit www.BruceForMe.com.

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