From 2000 to 2004, I had the pleasure of serving as State Senator for District 31, representing the people of Maine from Brewer south to Penobscot and Castine and north to Milford, Amherst and Lowell.
After an eight-year respite, I have decided that it is time to return to the fight and run for the seat presently held by my close friend Sen. Richard Rosen who, because of Maine statutes, is term limited and cannot run this year.
Recent developments across the state have sparked my interest in a return to the Legislature. Specifically, the discovery that multiple quasi-state agencies have been misusing taxpayer dollars for activities outside the realm of their defined purposes, has been particularly troubling.
Scandal at the Maine Turnpike Authority and later revelations that the Maine State Housing Authority was taking artistic license with a $13 million budget, have peaked my interest as to the real troubles that our state faces in Augusta.
Our elected officials, be they Democrats, Republicans or Independents are almost to a person, thoughtful, hardworking individuals who genuinely care about the well-being of Maine residents. We may disagree as to how to achieve the best for Maine people, but the end goal, prosperity for all Mainers, is a nearly universally held desire for the members of Maine’s citizen legislature.
Term limits and low stipends for members make life as a Maine legislator more of a sacrifice for the greater good than an occupation. However, such is not the case for many in Maine’s robust bureaucracy. As the incidents at Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine State Housing Authority have shown us over the past year, there is certainly room for our government to go on a diet.
Let me be clear, I realize there is a great need for the continued operation of the vast majority of our state agencies. For the most part, the individuals employed by these agencies are regular hardworking Mainers that spend countless hours working toward the betterment of the Maine way of life.
Unfortunately, it has become apparent that a lack of oversight has allowed a few opportunistic individuals to take advantage of powerful, high paying positions within the bureaucracy to increase their personal wealth.
The recent developments in agencies across the spectrum of state government bureaucracy have substantiated a concern that I had as far back as 2000. Along with Sen. David Trahan of Waldoboro, I co-authored and sponsored legislation and pushed for the establishment of a government oversight function responsible to the legislature to make all state agencies more open in their activities and related expenditures.
The culmination of this idea was the creation of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or OPEGA. Only mildly effective over the first eight years of existence due to the Baldacci administration’s refusal to adequately fund the project, OPEGA reports provided the background information that would eventually shine a light on MTA and MSHA, exposing millions of dollars of governmental waste.
We need real reform that will help build our economy and improve the well-being of Maine and its citizens. Every agency and program must be tested for efficiency and performance. Excess bureaucracy and excessive regulations must be cut. Priorities need to be set. Savings must be found.
I am a believer that Mainers pay enough taxes to provide social service to those in need. Our budget shortfalls in Maine are not a problem born out of revenue shortages, but poor management of that revenue.
OPEGA, a program which I helped organize over a decade ago, provides us a starting point for more efficient management of taxpayer dollars. Please send me to Augusta this fall so I can help Maine continue on the path to prosperity by minimizing irresponsible bureaucratic waste.
Ed Youngblood is a former two-term state senator from Brewer and a candidate for Senate District 31.