Mainers need a fair shot at getting ahead

Posted July 03, 2012, at 11:23 p.m.

One thing we all agree on is that lawmakers were sent to Augusta with a clear message to create jobs and grow our economy. Yet for the last year and a half, under Republican leadership, it’s now harder to live and work in Maine. They’ve made it harder to find a job, keep a job and earn a livable wage. We should be doing everything we can to be sure that Mainers get a fair shot at getting ahead — and creating opportunities so that Maine once again can be a place where we all can raise a family and prosper.

However, since Gov. Paul LePage and the Republican majority have been in power, we’ve seen children, women and the elderly targeted in an effort to play the most political of games. We’ve seen teachers punted about like footballs because it makes good campaign talking points. We’ve seen all working people, union or not, come under fire. Like any Mainer, they too strive for a future in which they’ll climb the ladder of economic success. That’s a desire we all share.

LePage and his Republican allies need to know this: That ladder of success needs to be restored.

During the last session, I watched 10 years of the work I’ve done on logging issues stripped away. Walking into the State House every day has never been so bitter. I dreaded the roll call of each vote that would result in us failing to come up with the numbers to protect teachers, the elderly or consumers from Republican attacks.

But I have to tell you, every single time one of these bills came up, I felt something. Every time I listened to Mainers retell their stories of struggle, their pleas to not “let them down,” I got more and more fired up. Every day that I think about the folks who were deemed “poor” but just not “poor enough” to have health insurance, I can’t help but see today as a make-or-break moment for our state and for our people.

The radical Republican agenda makes me think of when my mother, a single parent and college graduate, began teaching, only to be rewarded with an income that left us in an unheated camp without running water. I think of my friends who have left northern Maine because they couldn’t find work in the woods despite wealthy Quebec contractors cutting only miles from our homes. I think of a friend of mine who died in his twenties and left a daughter behind because he had no health insurance and could not afford to go to a hospital when he began having chest pains. When I think of all of these things and what the Republicans are doing I become more determined. No Mainer should have any of these worries.

I’m here to say: My children or yours, no two young people should be faced with these situations. No young adult should ever look upon their hometown with sad eyes and ache at its best days being in the past. We can do better than that. We want better than that. We must do better.

Democrats this session have fought for Allagash’s proud loggers, just as we have for the entrepreneur in the renovated mills of Biddeford and the tireless millworkers in Rumford, the lobstermen in Rockland, the potato farmers in Caribou, and the Maine Guide in Jackman. Day after day we have stood up for the hardworking people of Maine and the workers of Maine who through no fault of their own can’t find a job. It is our job, as leaders of this state, to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to climb that ladder of success.

Sen. Troy D. Jackson is serving his second term in the Maine Senate representing District 35, Aroostook County. He is the Democratic leader on the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee.

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