So you think you’ve heard every idea under the sun for shrinking the cost of Maine’s state government?

You haven’t met Patricia Egan.

“Our roads are cluttered with unnecessary signs,” Egan said Tuesday, moments after completing her “Cut Spending Sidewalk Tour” form outside the post office on Forest Avenue in Portland.

Too many signs? Tell us more.

“Sometimes you’re in a situation where there are stop signs,” Egan said. “But then there’s a sign that tells you there’s going to be a stop sign. And sometimes there’s a cluster of signs that actually do nothing more than numb the brain.”

Egan, it should be noted, drove all the way down from her home in Rockport to register her gripe with People Before Politics, the advocacy group formed last winter with leftover funds from Gov. Paul LePage’s privately financed transition team.

The organization’s current goal: Help the state’s Streamline & Prioritize Core Government Services Task Force come up with $25 million in cuts to Maine’s $6.1 billion, two-year budget.

“We’re compiling everything,” said Jason Savage, executive director of People Before Politics, as passers-by dropped their suggestions into a plastic bin. “And we’re going to produce a report that we’re going to give to the task force and to the governor’s office.”

Which, if the group’s public debut was any indication, should make for some interesting reading.

Some respondents, like Egan, were laser-like in identifying where there’s still fat to trim from state government.

Ann-Marie Grenier, a dental hygienist who lives in Windham, said her gripe involves the old Mountain Division Rail Line between Windham and Fryeburg — a right of way the state now sprays with herbicide to keep it open for walking and other recreational uses.

“We spend approximately $6,000 a year spraying herbicides on a stretch of rail line that is not used,” Grenier said, adding that she’s heard walking enthusiasts in the area “have actually volunteered to go in and do hand weeding.”

Sounds like a plan. But will the $6,000 — representing about 0.0002 percent of the state budget — really get the attention of the streamliners and the prioritizers in Augusta?

“It’s one step at a time, inch by inch,” replied Grenier. “It’s this incrementalism that’s got us where we are, so we’ve got to incrementally step back.”

Other complaints weren’t quite as specific.

Sarah Pierce of Wiscasset, for example, simply wrote “renegotiate the laptop program” across the top of her form — referring to the state’s contract with Apple Computer that has provided laptops for every seventh- and eighth-grader in Maine since 2002.

“The contracts are very expensive,” explained Pierce, who has three children.

How expensive?

“I don’t know how much they are,” she conceded.

But if you don’t know how much they cost, how do you know it’s too expensive?

“It’s government!” Pierce replied. “It’s got to be a bad deal! And it’s an old contract.”

(For the record, under a contract renegotiated with Apple in 2009, the state will pay $13.4 million this school year to put laptops in the hands of seventh- and eighth-graders, their teachers and Maine’s high school teachers.)

Daryn Holt of Portland wanted anyone younger than 20 who collects Social Security disability insurance to be cut loose immediately. He also wanted a People Before Politics T-shirt to replace the badly torn shirt he had on.

“You know how many in Portland, Maine, are people 20 years old and never worked a day in their life or went to school and collect disability?” asked Holt.

Enlighten me.

“A lot,” he replied.

About that shirt — what happened?

“Ask the Portland police,” said Holt.

And so it went.

Mark Finks, a longtime conservative gadfly from Falmouth, spent several minutes carefully writing out his prescription for Augusta: “Research and discover the origins and presence of administrative form of government in Maine. This empire-building innovation came in under (former Gov.) Ken Curtis and was greatly expanded in the 1970s and early 1980s. Eliminate its presence and philosophy and you will save a lot of money.”

At the bottom, Finks added, “Call me.”

Arthur Langely of Durham put it more succinctly: “Affordable spending + plus affordable debt = good government.”

Landon St. Peter of Oakland had the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in his sights.

“There’s been a lot of talk about cleaning house,” St. Peter said. “But there hasn’t been a lot of housecleaning that I can see. To date, no one’s been fired.”

Actually, at least eight top-level DHHS officials have left or been fired since the LePage administration took over in January. But hey, why get hung up on the details?

“If they run out of people at DHHS, the Department of Transportation is sort of ripe with extraneous people, too,” said St. Peter. “We’ve got more than we can count up there.”

Not according to Steve Demetriou, we don’t.

A commercial photographer from Portland, Demetriou stopped by on his bicycle to say, plainly and simply, that “our state budget has been trimmed about as much as it can be.”

The man has a point. But to be perfectly fair, so does Patricia Egan, who’s so riled up about all that roadside verbiage out there that she’d volunteer to become Maine’s “Minister of Silly Signs” if the Streamline & Prioritize Core Government Services Task Force thinks it would help.

Egan would start with the “huge sign” on a bridge in Lincolnville Beach that tells motorists the name of the small river that runs under Route 1.

“If you live there, you know the name of the river,” she said. “And if you don’t live there, you don’t care.”

Send that woman to Augusta.

Assuming she can still find it.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: [email protected]