To The Editor:
Many ask how Maine has become one of the oldest, poorest, highest-taxed and one of a very few states where its population is in decline.
Once known for its independence and work ethic, many believe Maine is now an entitlement state where fully one third of its population depends on government handouts in one form or another. When adding the number of people who work for government and those that work for non-profits, where the majority of the money they spend comes from government, the number comes closer to one half those in the workforce.
For the past three decades, state government has concentrated on expanding social programs, while at the same time over-regulating and over-taxing small business—those paying the bills. The slide into a welfare state, according to some, accelerated in 2002 when Governor John Baldacci and the Democrats controlling the House and Senate made the decision to increase the eligibility requirements for access to the state’s Medicaid program.
In their infinite wisdom, they increased the income requirements from 100 percent of the federal poverty income level to 170 percent. In other words, if the federal poverty level income per family was $30,000, the change meant that Maine families making $51,000 or less instantly qualified for Medicaid.
This opened the doors to dozens of thousands of families, both Maine residents and those from outside the state’s borders—a 78 percent increase—to access what is essentially free medical care. It would be an understatement to say that older people on fixed incomes found Maine to be a very attractive retirement location.
The taxpayers of Maine were being asked to subsidize healthcare and other services for some of the country’s—and, for that matter, the world’s—neediest people. In effect, Maine’s population grew older quickly and now leads the nation with an average age of 44.
For every government action there is a reaction. Older Maine residents with wealth are renouncing their residency and moving to Florida or New Hampshire, where there are no income taxes. Young, talented Mainers, reportedly upwards of 22 percent of that population, are moving form Maine to other areas of the country where there is greater opportunity. In effect, some people are moving to Maine for benefits, while others are moving away to find employment opportunities.
Why would Baldacci and the Democrats take such a drastic action? There are three possible reasons. First, votes: they were simply buying votes from those receiving and providing access to the benefits offered.
Secondly, there are federal matching funds. So having more people on the Medicaid roles would mean more money being shipped from Washington to Maine to help fund those state agencies and non-profits dealing with the increased demand. That means more government jobs.
Third, Baldacci and his fellow Democrats had big hearts and have no problem using other people’s money (OPM) to help those who they perceived to be in need.
What has made matters worse is the Baldacci Administration seemingly exercised little or no oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services; Maine Housing Authority; Maine Turnpike Authority; nor the Maine Bond Bank—and the list goes on. At the same time, they had little to worry about from the mainstream media even scraping a little off the top to find out what was going on.
When the history of the past 20 or 30 years is written, the media will take a hit for not doing its job, for not helping Maine people understand the short- and long-term ramifications of government actions, or lack thereof. Simply stated, Maine’s media, especially its major newspapers, have been (and still are) in the tank with the liberal elite of Maine.
Still, with the major financial issues facing Maine, reporters are failing to understand and report why Maine is in the financial position it is.
Democrats continue putting their collective heads in the sand trying to avoid the money issues Maine must deal with. To make matters worse, the media would rather report on murals and blunt statements by Governor LePage, rather than reporting the facts.
It is completely understandable for the Governor to show frustration: he sees firsthand what a mess the previous administration made with the support of the House, the Senate and a milk toast media.
It is a very difficult job to clean up a mess in one year that took the Democrats decades to create.