By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
In this Christmas and Hanukkah Season, a time when we celebrate the miracles of two great religions, we are sadly confronted by the fact that one of Lewiston’s largest employers, St. Mary’s Regional Hospital, is being forced to lay off 25 of our friends, neighbors and family members.
What once was a bright outlook for the holiday season and the future has turned to darkness and anxiety for these neighbors and their families.
The administration at St. Mary’s—and other hospitals throughout the state—have performed fiscal miracles to keep their staffs employed. But St. Mary’s, like every other hospital in Maine, has been forced to carry a debt, in this case $23 million. This debt was accrued because of the deadbeat policies of past State of Maine legislators when dealing with our hospitals.
In their race to promote themselves in Maine as benevolent benefactors, they made it easier to qualify for our state’s welfare programs, creating a promise land for the idle and a Dante’s Inferno for those expected to pay the bills.
I hope the members of our past Legislatures who are responsible for this crisis have a wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah this year: Don’t trouble yourselves by reflecting on those who have worked all their lives and now find themselves unemployed. Instead, think of all those you welcomed from the other 49 states who were attracted to Maine by your generous fiscal policies. Think of the holiday joy you created in their apartments.
Members of the incoming Legislature must now develop a spine. You are being called on to solve our state’s fiscal problems and stop our hospitals’ financial spiral. While welfare and General Assistance is a societal, moral obligation created for those in temporary need, it’s not meant for those who feel they are entitled and who expect us to support them indefinitely.
Our hospitals need to be fully reimbursed—not a nickel, not a quarter, not 75 cents on the dollar, but the full dollar. The choice the Legislature must make in this case is simple. Either continue to support the overly generous welfare system or ensure future employment for those now working in our hospitals. It’s simple. There is no longer any gray area.
Kudos to Governor Paul LePage for his display of what many elected Republican legislators are lacking: intestinal fortitude. What better way to send a message to the “We want to work with you” Democrats and their party toadies than to demand they show some respect for the Office of the Governor and lay off (like our local hospitals are being forced to do) their Massachusetts cameraman or, as he’s known, “a tracker.”
Can you believe it? The Democratic Party has hired a man from out of state to track and harass the Governor and his family at public appearances.
Instead of whining about the Governor’s action at the Legislature’s swearing-in ceremony, Republicans should be rallying around him. If they think their criticism of the Governor’s actions will score them points with the Democrats, I would advise them to beware of the scam artists that will soon be calling their homes, looking for an easy mark.
Democrats are afraid of the Governor because he is representative of the average working person that frequents the local coffee shops. People identify with him. He fights policies he believes are wrong. His experience in and his understanding of business sets him above many of our elected officials—most of whom have no idea which column on a ledger sheet is debit and which column is credit.
It’s time for Republicans to rally and stop acting like Democrats when it comes to legislation and loyalty.
On Saturday night, my wife and I attended “A Heritage Christmas,” presented by the Maine Musical Society at the Franco American Heritage Center. Performing along with the Androscoggin Chorale was the Lewiston High School Chamber Choir, conducted by Mr. Darren Avery.
These young men and women put on a superb performance, revealing once again the abundance of unheralded talent present in the City of Lewiston. Thank you for making Lewistonians proud.
In closing, I want to wish our Jewish neighbors a very Happy Hanukkah.