PORTLAND – On Aug. 1, Sunday Telegram columnist Tony Payne asked a question I wish to address.

In a direct attack on a hardworking young first-term legislator, Rep. Sean Flaherty, D-Scarborough, Payne asked: “What does a part-time swim coach fresh out of college know about solving a billion–dollar hole in the state budget?”

I say a lot. Since that is exactly what he helped do during the 124th Legislature.

In fact, Rep. Flaherty twice contributed to passing a balanced budget in the face of tremendous revenue shortfalls during one of the worst economic crises on record.

He demonstrated the maturity to make difficult choices, weigh the needs of Maine people with fiscal responsibility, while also planning for long-term economic development.

His collaborative work on the Utilities and Energy Committee helped lay the groundwork for developing an alternative energy industry in Maine. The laws he helped pass will help lower energy costs and expand broadband access — major keys to cultivating a successful business environment in the state.

Why did Payne pick this young man out of 186 of us in the Maine Legislature? Why did he blame the voters of Maine for him being a legislator?

If he is worried about young people in the Legislature, as a senior member I can say he is way off base.

Look no further than top leaders like Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, and House chair of the Appropriations Committee Emily Cain, D-Orono, Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, Senate Chair of the Natural Resources Committee Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, and Senate Chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee Justin Alfond, D-Portland.

Together, these young leaders have shepherded our Legislature and our state through some of the most difficult budgets in our history.

During the past two years of economic uncertainty and decline, 33 states have raised taxes to increase revenues, but not in Maine.

Instead, our young leadership worked with colleagues to establish an exhaustive process to examine our state funding, find efficiencies and plan for a changing economy.

With maturity and wisdom, they worked across the aisle with Republicans and within the Democratic caucus to broker compromises and make sure that cool heads prevailed under difficult circumstances.

If balancing the budget wasn’t difficult enough, the Senate majority leader, the House speaker and the House chair of the Appropriations Committee helped negotiate a bond package that will put at least 2,000 Mainers back to work and invest in the future of our economy by bolstering our tourism, energy, and transportation sectors.

We’ve heard a lot about age already this political season.

Some are too old, some are too young. It begs the question, what does make a good lawmaker?

The fact is that age is irrelevant.

 It is dedication, commitment and strong desire to serve the public that makes a good lawmaker.

Maine citizens are lucky to have a young creative crop of new legislators with fresh ideas who want to shape the future of the state and our economy.

After all, a young and talented work force is one of the keys to fostering economic growth.

So, Mr. Payne, the real question is this: Why are you using your Sunday column to bully our hardworking youth?

 

- Special to The Press HeraldWe’ve heard a lot about age already this political season. Some are too old, some are too young. It begs the question, what does make a good lawmaker? The fact is that age is irrelevant.