CONTRIBUTORS

Anti-poverty programs signal of Baldacci’s failure

Posted July 25, 2011, at 6:30 p.m.

After reading David Farmer’s July 21 column, “Gov. LePage stacks the deck to avoid the Legislature,” I feel compelled to respond to some of the more baseless statements it contained.

Farmer starts out the column claiming that Gov. Paul LePage is out to dismantle Maine’s “anti-poverty” programs. I find it sad but telling that a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. John Baldacci would view Maine’s safety net as an “anti-poverty program.”

Let’s be clear, our safety net programs represent little more than a bright and shining beacon of the failure of the Baldacci administration to enact true “anti-poverty” measures — namely its abject failure at creating an environment for Maine’s private sector to create jobs that could truly lift Maine families out of poverty, rather than finding themselves mired in it.

The first true “anti-poverty” measures to come along in Maine in a very long time were signed into law by Gov. LePage this legislative session; LD 1 cut red tape on Maine’s job creators; tax relief cut income taxes for 70,000 of Maine’s poorest families as well as the vast majority of Mainers along with encouraging private sector job creators to invest and grow; and LD 1333, which will lower health insurance costs for Maine people, rich or poor.

Mr. Farmer also launches an attack on Gov. LePage because of a task force that is charged with finding $25 million in savings in the state budget — while admitting that the Baldacci administration did the same thing.

Mr. Farmer also makes the claim that the governor is using the task force as a manner to “side step the Legislature.” In fact, the task force was approved as part of the budget by the Appropriations Committee and the full Legislature, including members of Mr. Farmer’s own political party. Because the task force was so approved, no person with the ability to read the state budget and roll call votes could possibly believe Mr. Farmer’s claim.

Farmer then goes on to attack the curtailment provision of the task force, which would allow Gov. LePage to make the cuts himself. To Maine people who expect results from those they elect to lead Maine, Mr. Farmer’s belief that the task force likely will not come to agreement on appropriate cuts reveals much about the former administration. For years, Maine people have watched countless study groups, blue ribbon commissions and task forces study and plan, then study and plan some more.

Maine people deserve a government that works and does what it is tasked to do — not one that studies, talks, plans and wastes tax dollars with no intention of producing results.

Of all the claims that Mr. Farmer makes, however, one stands out as by far the most egregious. The entire tone of Mr. Farmer’s column hints at the ultraliberal strategy of claiming Gov. LePage is out to get Maine’s elderly and disabled. This could not be more untrue. Our governor has repeatedly stood up to defend our elderly and disabled, not to mention donating hundreds of hours of his own time to area homeless shelters and organizations that serve Maine people with mental illnesses.

Let me leave you with this: Does David Farmer know what living on the streets is like? What, if any, personal experience does he have with welfare?

I would dare say that our current governor, Paul LePage, knows more about this topic than possibly any other elected official in Maine’s history. The governor’s unfortunate childhood has given him insight into these problems.

If you were to find yourself jobless or in dire straits what would help you more: a government check that still leaves you poor at the end of the month, or a good job that allows you to pursue the American dream?

Let’s tone down the rhetoric, stop the scare tactics, and work to create an environment where Maine families can lift themselves out of poverty.

Jason Savage is executive director of Maine People Before Politics.

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