To the Editor:
Last fall, for the first time in 50 years, Maine Republicans were given control of the Maine Senate, House of Representatives, and the Governorship. It would have been easy to mistake this for a mandate.
Instead, Republicans realized that voters wanted a change in direction as opposed to the status quo. It wasn’t that they were particularly enamored with Republicans, just willing to try a new approach in the face of dire economic circumstances. In the words of Walt Kelly, we are now “confronted with insurmountable opportunities” that need to be addressed this legislative session.
These difficult issues/opportunities include: A budget shortfall that, at one point, was estimated to be $1 billion; a projected Highway Fund Budget shortfall of $720 million over the next two years; an embarrassing $400 million debt to our hospitals; and a Retirement System that will cost Maine $916 million over the next two years (up from $629 million the previous budget cycle).
Add to this last fall’s Forbes magazine ranking, which placed Maine dead last for “Best States to Do Business.”
These and other challenges will have to be met without further burdening already over-burdened taxpayers. Mindful that time is of the essence, Maine Republicans have already begun work in three important areas:
1.) Efficient, Effective, Affordable State Government. Senate Republicans, mindful that we must lead by example, have already reduced the cost of the Senate Presidents’ office by over 20%, a nearly $100,000 decrease from our predecessors. We need to lead by example.
2.) Job Creation. Governor LePage and legislative Republicans are committed to pursuing regulatory fairness and reforms that create jobs and make it easier to do business in Maine. The Governor and local chambers of commerce have been holding Red Tape Audit Meetings throughout Maine.
Our first legislative act was LD 1, An Act To Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform. It establishes a bi-partisan committee that is holding public hearings throughout Maine to give citizens and small businesses the opportunity to suggest changes that will encourage job creation and retention and expanded opportunities for Maine people.
3.) Access to Healthcare. Maine hospitals, particularly those serving small communities, are owed an embarrassing $400 million. This compromises access to healthcare and likely contributed to the loss of 600 good-paying jobs in Maine over the last several years. The Governor recently unveiled a Supplemental Budget that makes a significant down payment of $248 million for money owed as far back as 2006.
These are just some of the things we have acted on in the first month. I am encouraged that these and other actions we will take in the weeks and months ahead will serve to get Maine moving again. Maine Republicans have pledged to “CREATE” a Maine state government that is Caring and Responsible, Efficient and Affordable, Transparent and Effective.
Senator Lois Snowe-Mello
Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello represents Maine Senate District 15, which includes the Androscoggin County communities of Auburn, Durham and Poland, along with New Gloucester in Cumberland County.