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The Wisconsin story under Gov. Scott Walker: A lesson for Maine?

Posted March 16, 2014, at 9:19 a.m.
Last modified March 17, 2014, at 3:33 p.m.
George Danby

Recently, during the Wisconsin State of the State address, Gov. Scott Walker announced a nearly $1 billion revenue surplus. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the governor was faced with a $3.6 billion budget deficit when he took office just a few years ago.

Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature have replaced double-digit tax increases, billion-dollar deficits and major job losses with massive tax cuts, growing budget surpluses and significant job growth. Wisconsin is back to work.

Wisconsin is an example for Maine to follow. Maine has done some things right, but now is not the time to return to the old habits of the Legislature where we spend money we don’t have, make promises we can’t keep and saddle future taxpayers with the bill.

Gov. Paul LePage, with bipartisan support in the Legislature, set Maine on the right course early in his first term. Together, we tackled the chronic underfunding of the pension program head on —- saving billions in future liabilities for Maine taxpayers. In fact, we have made tremendous progress in a number of areas including:

— Passing the largest tax cut ($400 million every two years) in Maine’s history for Maine taxpayers and job creators.

— Eliminating $1.7 billion, or 41 percent, of the existing shortfall in Maine’s pension system while protecting retirees’ future benefits.

— Paying more than $700 million back to hospitals — keeping a commitment to pay our bills.

— Increasing funding to general purpose aid for education by $63 million over the two-year budget.

Adding an additional $104 million, without borrowing, to the road and bridge plan to make improvements to Maine’s infrastructure.

Right now, the Legislature is under tremendous pressure from the folks who want to return to the bad habits of the past where we make long-term commitments we can’t afford. The very same people who created the deficits of the past failed to build a safety net for our most vulnerable and robbed Peter to pay Paul, and they are once again trying to take the ship of Maine off course.

Don’t be fooled.

LePage, with help from the Legislature, has fundamentally changed the course of Maine. We are already seeing the results: dropping unemployment numbers, jobs returning to the state, incomes picking up, and we are paying our bills on time.

The path to prosperity is just in front of us — and the good ship Wisconsin is the one to follow. Fortunately for Maine, that is the course we are currently on, and we need to fight for Maine families, job creators and taxpayers to keep us on that course.

Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, serves on the Maine Legislature’s Taxation Committee.

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