Last November, the people of Maine sent legislators to Augusta with a mandate to create jobs and to improve our economy. Democrats got the message — loud and clear.
For the first time in decades, Republicans were in the majority. Instead of putting that mandate into action, they pushed an extreme agenda. Bill after bill, we saw solutions in search of a problem — from efforts to undermine the rights of working people to allowing toxic chemicals in children’s sippy cups.
Republican lawmakers voted to limit voting rights, raise the cost of health care and add a new tax on everyone’s health insurance policies.
Republican lawmakers voted for an estate tax giveaway to 600 of our wealthiest residents on the very same day they voted against raising the minimum wage by 25 cents for working Mainers.
Democrats, meanwhile, stood up for Maine people — workers, small businesses, teachers, children and the elderly.
We championed a law that will directly minimize layoffs and allow business to keep their qualified, trained employees. The law directly helps keep more Maine people working.
We worked to reform our regulatory climate and promote and invest in Maine-made industries like lobstering, commercial fishing and maple syrup production. We sponsored bills to better prepare our children for the jobs of the future and tax credits to help small business grow and to attract new investment to our state.
Ernst and Young rated Maine as having some of the best tax rates for business investment in the country because of targeted tax policies like these that Democrats passed a few years ago.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently rated Maine as the best place in the country for business infrastructure because of the investments Democrats fought for, particularly for our effort to expand access to the Internet in rural areas.
It remains a top priority for Democrats to demonstrate that we are committed to improving the business and jobs climate. That is why we worked to protect our natural resources that Maine businesses rely on. We blocked the most extreme environmental rollbacks from the governor, crafting a regulatory reform law based on the needs of real Maine businesses not the chemical industry.
While Democrats brought alternatives and moderate solutions to the table, accomplishing bipartisan work on the budget and regulatory reform, the differences between Democrats and Republicans were stark.
Republican lawmakers introduced bills to roll back child labor protections, limit access to family planning for women and even blocked efforts to protect our children from bullying at school.
Whose side are they on?
GOP lawmakers backed the governor and his extreme policies time after time — reversing their unanimous votes in support of good legislation to uphold his ideological vetoes.
Worse, when given the opportunity to create jobs, Republicans held economic stimulus hostage. We return to our districts empty handed with no jobs package for the voters. Republicans refused to consider even a modest bond proposal despite urging from businesses, research institutions and conservation groups.
Bonds create jobs in the short term by improving our roads, rebuilding our classrooms and investing in Maine-based innovation. They also pave the way to future job creation by improving our infrastructure and expanding our economic potential for new and traditional Maine industries.
Republicans left those jobs on the table. Democrats will continue to call for a serious bond package in 2012 because we cannot afford to delay targeted investment in Maine’s economy any longer.
Gov. Paul LePage and GOP lawmakers pushed policies that were out of step with Maine people and a far cry from the jobs mandate that voters gave us eight months ago.
After just months of Republican rule in Augusta, retirees will have to live on less, rural Mainers will pay more for health care, cities and towns will have to slash school budgets and roads and bridges will take longer and cost more to fix.
Democrats fought tooth and nail to push back on their radical ideas in our committees and on the floor of the House and Senate. Week after week, Maine people showed up to protest these extreme proposals. Democrats stood with them then, and continue to stand with them now.
Democrats continue to be serious about finding real solutions for real problems. We will bring your voices back with us to Augusta in January, and continue to focus on charting a deliberate path out of this recession and toward economic prosperity.
Emily Ann Cain, D-Orono, is the House Democratic leader.