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LETTER: Governor, treasurer deserve credit for tackling debt

To the Editor:

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin told members during a recent meeting of the Androscoggin County Conservative Coalition that too much debt severely limits Maine’s options for providing services to its citizens. Poliquin has been on a one-man crusade to educate Maine residents about the staggering amount of debt the State of Maine owes, and he has been working with Governor Paul LePage to address how that debt can be paid.

The actions—or the inaction—of Maine’s political leaders over the past 20-plus years is inexcusable; in fact, if a private sector company dealt with its employees as Maine has, the owner and board of directors would be facing serious legal charges. The unfunded liability owed to Maine teachers and state employees has been calculated at $4.3 billion, representing over two decades of neglect by past Maine political leaders.

It appears that the arrangement between the Democrats and the union during that period was just too cozy. The union accepted the word of the Democrats that state employees would receive retirement money, but the unspoken reality was that Democrats continued to grow state government, resulting in more money for the union.

The arrangement became a circle of power and money. Democrats would grow the number of state employees, the union would receive more money, and the Democrats would receive more money to get elected, the mother’s milk of politics.

Now, when the Republicans are finally dealing with the issue, options have become fewer and fewer. Governor LePage and Treasurer Poliquin both believe that the teachers and employees need to be paid what is owed, and the vast majority of Mainers agree. Legislation has been introduced that will address the issue, and it does ask for shared sacrifice.

But Governor LePage has made it clear there would be no layoffs and no forced furlough days for state employees.

The fact that past governors and legislators have passed this obligation on to future generations is reckless and totally unfair. One wonders how they could justify their actions, and history is not going to treat those involved well.

State government would be wise to pass the legislation proposed by Governor LePage. It would go a long way toward solving the debt crisis and, at the same time, send a very positive message to the private sector that Maine government is finally getting its act together. No more shell games, no more smoke and mirrors, and no more lies and deceit.

Maine residents are now being told the truth, and that is a good thing. Governor LePage and Treasurer Poliquin deserve a great deal of credit for their effort to deal with the debt crisis, and every Mainer should understand and appreciate the importance of their effort.

John Turner

Auburn

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