You’ve heard the expression there are two sides to every story? Sometimes, it’s not about the “other side” — it’s knowing the whole story.
Recently, Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, and Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, each wrote opinion pieces highlighting some accomplishments of the 125th Legislature. I was surprised by their recollection of the legislative session because my memory paints a much different picture. It seems their narrative only tells half the story. Mainers deserve to know the whole story.
Two years ago, Republicans took over the State House and the Blaine House — and they did so with the mandate and the promise to create jobs and to get Maine’s economy back on track. Yet they’ve focused on nearly everything else — from fireworks and whoopie pies, repealing voters’ rights and rolling back worker protections. Their agenda has been riddled with distractions and promises left unfulfilled.
Two years later, 50,000 Mainers remain out of work.
While the rest of the country is figuring out ways to emerge from the greatest recession of our lifetime, Maine lags way behind. We are the only state in New England whose economy actually shrank. In the last year-and-a-half, Maine lost 2,300 jobs, in both the public and private sector, and we rank dead last in personal income growth. Yet, the Republicans neglect to mention efforts to improve our economy.
This Legislature was not without opportunity to grow jobs. Choices were made, and, each time, Democrats stood up for making common-sense investments to grow our economy and the middle class. When the governor vetoed research and development bonds, the Republican-majority kowtowed to tea party politics. Meanwhile, Democrats stood up and fought for proven job creation efforts that would provide good-paying jobs and grow our economy today and for tomorrow.
When the governor refused to release bonds already approved by Maine voters, legislative Republicans were silent. They gave the governor unfettered control to curtail jobs that would have put people back to work immediately. Instead, they put a stop to construction jobs needed for rebuilding our roads and bridges. They halted development at Brunswick Landing (formerly Brunswick Naval Air Station) and grounded expansion efforts at the Augusta airport.
Democrats know that it takes just as long to walk out of the woods as it does to walk in. Jobs weren’t lost overnight, and they won’t be created overnight. But standing still isn’t going to get us anywhere, either.
When I look around and see that Maine continues to rank among the bottom in the country for job growth — and other states are doing better — then I know that we, too, can do better. We need to invest in people and build a solid foundation from which to grow.
The fact of the matter is, on their watch, because of their priorities, the Republicans in charge have made it harder to live, work and invest in Maine. It seems they’re running from their record — the very things they ramrodded through the Legislature.
They promised less expensive health insurance for all Mainers, but, instead, many Mainers are now paying more for less. Insurance rates have skyrocketed for every Mainer over the age of 60, and the law lets insurance companies charge middle-age Mainers five times more than younger Mainers. The Republican law also imposes a new tax on every person with health insurance — making insurance premiums even more costly.
There were also promises of putting Maine’s students first. But instead of investing in public education, the Republican-led legislature cut millions of dollars for Head Start and other pre-kindergarten programs. They spearheaded efforts to siphon local taxpayer dollars away from our community public schools to fund private, religious, virtual and even for-profit schools. That’s not putting students first. It’s taking away opportunities from our students and eroding our public schools.
Are we moving forward or backward under Republican leadership?
Because of Republican priorities and policies, health care is more expensive, costs have shifted and more people are working harder for less. Too many Mainers are still out of work, and Republicans have failed to get our economy moving again. They have left the middle class behind.
I want what most Mainers want: a real focus on getting working people working again, earning a fair wage for a hard day’s work and reinstating the promise of a better tomorrow for our children.
As an elected official, I also know that we can do better to get Maine back on track. But it’s going to take more than just empty promises. Maine people expect results, and we must deliver.
Democratic state Sen.Troy Jackson lives in Allagash.