May 26, 2018
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Out of the rhetoric

By Jason Savage, Special to the BDN

Strong leadership does not inspire fear. In fact, in politics it motivates people to stand up and do what is right, even in the face of well organized opposition, and loud, often divisive rhetoric. Legislators who recently stood with Gov. Paul LePage on his two line-item vetoes did just that, they stood up and said enough is enough when it comes to defying federal rules and condoning Maine’s explosive growth in welfare spending.

Our organization strongly disagrees with the BDN’s April 24 “Out of the veto morass” editorial. The opening sentence of the editorial declared that “Legislative leaders and Gov. Paul LePage have gotten themselves into a bad place.”

To the contrary, legislative leaders and Gov. LePage found Maine in a “bad place” upon taking office and are doing everything they can to get us out. The “bad place” now described by the BDN is one created by their political opposition and the press in an attempt to score political points and continue Maine’s unbridled welfare spending binge.

The piece relied upon a faulty premise from the beginning — that Republican legislators fear the governor — and built upon that premise to spin a perfectly false narrative.

The governor’s line-item vetoes, and the veto message delivered along with them clearly made the governor’s case to the Legislature.

The welfare spending targeted by one line-item veto had more than doubled in five years, from under $7 million in 2008 to a projected $14.3 million in 2013. A very small group of communities receive 90 percent reimbursement for their welfare programs while all others are reimbursed at only 50 percent. Why should taxpayers across the state subsidize welfare at a greater rate in some communities while carrying a heavier burden for welfare in their own hometowns?

The DSH or disproportionate share funding targeted by the second line-item veto clearly stands in violation of federal rules. It would put Maine taxpayers on the hook for future lawsuits and expose them to liability to repay misspent funds. This is something Maine taxpayers have already been forced to do in previous years when grabbing federal funding was more important to Augusta than obeying the law or protecting taxpayers.

Clearly, the Republicans in the Legislature carefully considered the case presented to them by the governor through his veto message and agreed with him. This demonstrates leadership on the governor’s behalf, not the legislature’s fear of the governor.

The taxpayers of Maine certainly do not approve of using dishonest methods to draw down federal funds which we will be forced via lawsuit to repay in the future. They have already watched hundreds of millions of their tax dollars misspent and wasted during the King and Baldacci administrations.

The taxpayers of Maine certainly do not approve of the explosion of welfare spending Maine has endured over the past decade. If they did, they would have voted for the status quo in 2010.

It is clear that nothing, perhaps not even a sober assessment of Maine’s current financial situation will change the narrative on the BDN’s editorial page.

Continuing the old tax-and-spend policies would inevitably damage Maine employers, the BDN included, through a loss of economic vitality across Maine and because of the tough choices Maine families are forced to make when government continually demands more of their hard-earned money.

Unlike efforts in Augusta to bring a new energy, vision and prosperity to Maine’s economy, “Out of the veto morass” presented nothing new, just stale old anti-LePage rhetoric ignoring the fact that Maine can’t afford runaway welfare spending.

Jason Savage is executive director of Maine People Before Politics, a statewide organization dedicated to supporting policies that benefit all Maine people.

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