By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Lewiston, we have a problem! It appears to be a major problem.
Our Governor, Paul LePage, has dared to shatter the rose-colored glasses used by career politicians to assure the taxpaying public that everything is fine. After years of smoke and mirrors and dishonesty, the ugly truth stands before us—the State of Maine is broke.
Like the emperor in the fairy tale, the Legislative Branch stands naked before the public bickering and fiercely fighting amongst each other over how best to clothe themselves. This would be amusing if their decisions didn’t have such dire consequences on the public they claim to be serving.
The question is whether our legislators are going to “man up” and take responsibility for the mess they have created over the years and raise state taxes to deal with the problems. Or will they, like Pontius Pilate, wash their responsibilities away passing the crisis on to the municipalities to deal with and solve?
This class-war mentality will pit struggling service centers (with the exception of Portland and Bangor), such as Lewiston, Auburn, Biddeford, Waterville, etc., against Maine’s well-heeled communities, such as Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and Yarmouth. Which group do you think will get the short end of the stick and suffer the most fiscal pain?
Unlike our federal and state legislators, who have the option of rolling the government’s problem down the hill in order to offend the least amount of voters, municipal government stands on the level plain at the bottom of the hill. This leaves those serving in municipal government to face the ire of the property taxpayer. Why? Because local government has no place to pass these problems but to the local taxpayer.
This insures that monetary obligations will be greater in the service-center communities than the communities that are well-heeled.
But take comfort: at least our local state legislators will be able to continue the mantra, “We’re fighting for our community.” At election time they will be able to proudly crow that once again they kept state taxes in check. Worst of all, many of the voting public will believe and praise them for their courage and yeoman efforts. This same public will then set about to demean their local representatives for increases in their local taxes accompanied by decreases in city services.
But this type of cavalier attitude is also exhibited when dealing with other entities that do business with the state. The most brazen example of this is the local hospitals.
Our local hospitals employ family members, neighbors and friends. Our local hospitals provide “livable” wages and benefits. Our local hospitals are economic engines that drive our local economy. Our local hospitals, whose closeness in an emergency, may mean the difference between life and death. Our local hospitals, which for some unknown reason, have been marked for punishment by the progressive liberals running Augusta.
Two weeks ago the Maine Mayors Coalition (a group of 11 Maine city mayors) had a congenial meeting with the Democratic leadership in Augusta. When the meeting ended, I spoke with the Senate President Justin Alfond, informing him that our local hospitals were laying off employees because of the financial difficulties brought on by the outstanding debt owed them by the State of Maine.
I told him that the hospitals needed to be paid. His demeanor quickly changed to irritable and defensive, telling me that it would be discussed.
Days later, after Governor LePage had announced his solution to pay off the debt, Senator Alfond engaged in “political demonization” when he stated that the Governor was going to Wall Street to secure money for a bond in order to pay the hospital debt. Where is Alfond going to obtain funds for future bonds—China?
Turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or go into any bar or coffee shop and the term “role model” will eventually come up. When it comes to paying the hospitals, whom would you like your child to emulate, a Governor who honors his obligations or the liberal progressives and their allies that ignore them?