BANGOR – Stop the bleeding. Then grow the pie.

While Maine, like much of the nation, took a bit of a right turn in this election, I believe that a closer inspection of the election results indicates a continuing political and hence economic balance in the preferences of voters in Maine in the aggregate.

Republicans will now control both houses of the Legislature and also the Blaine House. But this follows decades of substantially Democratic rule (more of a mixed history in Maine governorship contests) across many election cycles. Democrats Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud were rather handily re-elected. And gubernatorial winner Republican Paul Le- Page received only a plurality of votes while more than six out of 10 Mainers voted for some other candidate.

Nationally, the last three elections have resulted in losses for the president’s party, impacting first Republicans and now Democrats.

Polls indicate that voters are not happy with either major party. So let’s not jump the gun and talk about a mandate in regard to economic agendas.

CUT TO INVEST

The Brookings Institute report on Maine’s economic future and other studies have talked about strategic investments coupled with cuts.

A “cut to invest” approach recognizes both that we clearly cannot responsibly continue unsustainable financial practices and, just as importantly, that neither can we simply cut our way to prosperity.

My introduction of a “stabilize to invest” approach recognizes the balanced economic principles of “cut to invest” while highlighting also that cuts must be done in a proactive and intelligent manner that stabilizes our budget in regard to structural imbalances rather than precipitating further rounds of needed cuts one after another down the road.

In my view, prosperity involves both spending less and earning more. Strategic investments must be return on investment sensitive and include metrics that are clearly measurable. Otherwise, one is playing fast and loose with the term “investment” in regard to what might really instead be, in point of fact, only an expense.

AIM FOR GROWTH

An investment is something that puts an increased amount of money back in one’s pocket beyond the amount of the expenditure, in real financial terms, over time.

Deciding as a state both where to cut intelligently in a way that stabilizes and stops the bleeding rather than just delays it, and where to strategically invest in a manner that demonstrates real return on investment, is something that we must do together across the political spectrum if we are collectively to accomplish our economic aims.

The culture of partisanship that has existed across election cycles reflects an overreach of political maneuvering and policymaking that has calloused, angered and disenfranchised the electorate. Too many politicians are not mindful enough of this underlying turbulence, instead opting to take advantage of transitory advantages resulting from the latest wave.

Gov.-elect LePage and the new Republican-led Maine Legislature stand now with the opportunity for leadership to balance the contrasting economic and political aspirations of the electorate.

An opportunity is different than a mandate. It is a moment in time.

Were they to hold too tightly to a perceived swing of the pendulum in a staunchly conservative direction, they may themselves become caught up in further swings of the pendulum going forward. 

– Special to The Press Herald