By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Our city budget season is upon us. Seven women and men, elected from throughout Lewiston, will spend long days and sleepless nights scrutinizing the budgets of our various city departments. They will labor over what capital expenditures can be put off and what, if any, services can be cut or curtailed.
They have become the stewards of Lewiston’s fiscal health. All at some point will question what possessed them to run for the council and take on this thankless task.
Each year balancing the city’s needs against what property taxpayers can afford becomes harder. The Washington goose that at one time was very fertile has now gone sterile. Reality in Augusta is defined by vocal special interest groups who at the start of the legislative season take up residence inside the walls of the State House. Here they repeatedly present legislators with dubious facts which go unchallenged by the majority of the clueless we have representing us. This results in the passage of legislation which in the long run will shaft the majority of our taxpaying population.
Then we have Governor Paul LePage, a businessman who realizes money does not grow on trees, geese do not lay golden eggs and straw cannot be spun into gold. Unfortunately, he has to deal with a legislature in which a great majority still believe the fairy tales read to them by their parents and teachers are true.
The current Maine Legislature is filled with academics, lawyers, teachers and social service employees who have no clue on how to create a private sector job, much less keep the ones already here. No, the only jobs they are able to create are public sector jobs, leading to a larger bureaucracy and an unwanted but predictable byproduct—higher taxes. This affects only those who actually pay taxes.
Beginning their deliberations on a new city budget, designed to carry the city through June 2015, Lewiston City Councilors are not going to be graced with the options of a veto or a compromise with their opponents. Councilors have no opponents. Being at the bottom of the political food chain, they cannot punt away problems. They have to deal with them head on.
This situation will be faced by city councilors and town selectmen throughout the State of Maine. They have all stepped forward to take on a thankless job—keeping their domain running and solvent. They will face pillorying from both sides of each issue placed before them. Their lonely positions require them to possess a large amount of intestinal fortitude, a condition seriously lacking in our State and Federal elected officials. These are the kind of officials who take up residence in Washington and Augusta, placing distance between them and those who elected them but stay close and cozy with the special interest groups that supplied them the money needed to run their bid for election.
Beside the public’s wrath, here are some of the problems those charged with keeping their city or towns afloat face:
The possible loss of revenue sharing. This loss will probably increase property taxes for those who actually pay property taxes.
They want to take away certain tax breaks from retail stores. These are businesses that generate both jobs and sales taxes used for revenue sharing.
Senate President Justin Alfond introduced an unfunded bill giving service centers, like Lewiston, the option of providing nutrition programs over the summer for those who receive free lunches during the school year.
The Legislature also wants to defer the maintenance of State roads to our cities and towns (unfunded, of course).
After being forced to pay their debts to the hospitals, there is now a bill before the Legislature to place fees on all large non-profits (talk about sour grapes).
There is talk of creating a special property tax to insure every child in Maine gets an equal K-12 education.
But these taxes and fees represent the supposedly altruistic philosophies of our progressive Democratic state leadership. They stand in contrast with Governor Paul LePage, who wants to give those who actually pay taxes a reduction.
One has to wonder: If Senator Margaret Craven and her committee did not kill the bill to bring Maine into compliance with Federal welfare law and regulations, how much of the aforementioned legislation would be necessary?
Where is Robin Hood and his band of Merrymen from Sherwood Forest when you need them?