Will Maine voters choose to continue the hard work of reforming state government and preserving the social safety net for our most vulnerable citizens?

Or will we as a state fall off the wagon and revert to the cronyism, corruption and incompetence of Maine’s liberal Democrat ruling class?

With all 186 seats in the Maine Legislature and the office of Governor up for grabs, we will know the answer to these questions on the morning of Wednesday Nov. 5. Based on what I’m hearing from voters in my legislative district, and the feedback I’m getting from other Republican candidates across the state, I believe Maine people will opt to continue the hard work of pulling Maine out of the ditch after decades of liberal Democrat misgovernance.

Gov. Paul LePage and Republican majorities in the 125th Legislature made enormous strides in cleaning up the mess they inherited from Maine Democrats, from the scandalous mismanagement at the Maine State Housing Authority to the criminal misconduct at the Maine Turnpike Authority. And for the first time in decades, Maine state government is no longer a deadbeat debtor. The half billion dollars of welfare debt owed to Maine hospitals has been paid off, and we’re finally paying our bills on time.

During the eight years that Gov. John Baldacci and the Democrats ran state government, Maine’s private sector generated a net 56 new jobs. Since LePage took office, job growth is above 20,000.

The Democrats’ decades-long war on the work ethic in Maine is evident in our broken welfare system that makes it easier for able-bodied young adults to stay at home rather than find a job. While some significant progress has been made on welfare reform over the past three-and-a-half years, we have a long way to go. The battle lines are drawn.

Maine’s nanny state, non-profit industrial complex is the liberals’ alphabet soup of tax-exempt lobbying and social-service entities that promote and feed off the relentless expansion of the welfare state. From the Maine Health Access Foundation to the Maine People’s Alliance to Sweetser to Maine Equal Justice Partners, left-wing ideologues and activists have embedded themselves in a vast infrastructure of interlocking non-profit organizations that provide permanent high-paying jobs for the liberal elite and the party faithful. Maine’s poverty industry is a lucrative big business.

That’s because liberals measure progress by the number of people who depend on government to meet their basic needs.

The best example of how this progressive philosophy works in practice is the history of Medicaid expansion in Maine. In 2001, when Mike Michaud and his Democrat colleagues in the Legislature decided to offer medical welfare to tens of thousands of non-elderly, non-disabled childless adults, we were told that this was the “morally right” thing to do. Enrollment in the program mushroomed beyond anyone’s expectations and the state’s ability to pay and led directly to the half-billion dollar hospital debt, violating Maine’s constitutional requirement for a balanced budget. No one called out Baldacci and the Democrats who ran up that unconstitutional debt until LePage and Republican majorities came to power.

Fast forward to 2012. Democrat Speaker of the House Mark Eves called the Medicaid expansion “a wise investment” of public funds and began the push for an even bigger expansion, despite the fact that we already have close to a quarter of our non-elderly adult population dependent on government for virtually free medical care. No premium, minimal co-pays, no deductibles. And if you’re young and able-bodied, why would you take a job that would jeopardize your eligibility for this program and all the other freebies offered by Maine Democrats?

Meanwhile, Medicaid spending has cannibalized the state budget ever since the 2001 expansion. We have chronically underfunded our nursing homes for the better part of a decade. Many have shut down and others are on the brink of closure, imposing terrible financial and emotional hardships on families in rural Maine. At the same time, we have legions of non-elderly, non-disabled adults who don’t work and won’t work but can afford tattoos and cigarettes, standing in the grocery check-out lines with their EBT cards in hand.

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is the legacy of liberalism in Maine. Liberal Democrats have shoved the elderly and disabled to the back of the bus to accommodate a growing population of slackers who would rather get a free ride than take responsibility for themselves.

The choice on Nov. 4 couldn’t be any clearer.

Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, is serving his first term in the Maine Legislature and is running for re-election in House District 137.