March 4, 2010

COMMENTARYReaders respond to spending limits, transportation bond

— Maine's first responders are always evolving to the threats and challenges facing our communities. For those of us in law enforcement, it's not the crime itself that changes; the change is in the person and the way they perpetrate it.

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Jack Milton/Staff Photographer: A lone voter casts his vote at the Westbrook Armory Tuesday, June 9, 2009, where the only issue on the ballot was approval of the school budget.

Jack Milton

Today, it is as likely that we will be robbed at the end of an Internet connection rather than a weapon, burglarized for our personal information rather than our TV, or defrauded by a junk stock or mortgage sold ''legitimately'' rather than by the stereotypical con-man.

Today, we are debating and preparing to vote on a tax policy in TABOR II. It is an overly restrictive and damaging idea defeated by a majority of Maine voters in 2006. Just as savvy criminals change to meet the times, so has the effort to bring TABOR to Maine. The old adage is true; ''Everything old is new again.''

TABOR in Colorado forced the state and municipalities to make devastating decisions as to what services and infrastructure they needed to survive, rather than what they needed to thrive. They have realized the effects of a policy like TABOR and have warned us against it.

During a recession and at a time when Maine and its citizens are at their most vulnerable, why would we embark on the same path as Colorado? We should demand that our federal, state and local governments act responsibly when it comes to taxes and spending.

However, to do so when Maine people have already been forced to fund the cost nationally to reward unrepentant and unscrupulous corporations makes TABOR the medicine that kills the cure here at home. It is the poison pill; plain and simple. Vote ''no'' on Question 4 to allow Maine people to keep the services they deserve.

Paul Gaspar

Executive Director, Maine Association of Police

South Portland

The opponents of TABOR make the most ridiculous arguments possible. They have no grasp of the realities that we all face.

Who among us can go to our employer and say this is how much my family wants to spend this year, so this is how much you will have to pay me?

Why is it everyone has to live within their family budgets, yet government spends without any restrictions?

The fact that government employees think they should be immune from layoffs when 26 million American workers have lost their jobs is unfounded.

Because our legislators have lost control of the spending reins, it's time for the adults in Maine to step in and say when and how much will be spent on what projects.

Lastly, are the anti-TABOR factions going to drive all the productive taxpayers to New Hampshire?

How does New Hampshire manage without a sales or income tax? Are their schools and roads worse than Maine's?

Keep this one thought in mind on Election Day. One-half of the state tax revenue in California comes from only 145,000 taxpayers. What happens when they vote with their feet and move away?

Michael Doyle

Falmouth

Attorney General Janet Mills states that in regards to the gay marriage bill, we cannot go by what has happened in Massachusetts and California regarding indoctrination in public schools.

But as to TABOR II, we can go by what has happened in Colorado.

Not only is Maine among the most-taxed states in the nation, we rank No. 1 for the most hypocrites in state and local governments.

Craig Elliott

Bristol

In response to the article, ''Schools gird for more 'hurt' in funding cuts,'' Oct. 20: I am a student from the Muskie School for Public Policy, and I am concerned about the impending budget cuts that our education system is facing.

It is vital that we maintain appropriate funding to our schools. We want a well-educated work force as well as the ability to attract students to Maine.

In addition to the $27 million our legislators cut from our education funding this past session, our schools are threatened by the possibility of further cuts and restrictions on spending.

If TABOR II passes, it will be more difficult to provide a quality education for the students of Maine.

This proposal would cap the level of government spending according to a formula that does not adequately account for social services such as education and health care. If passed, this proposal would essentially tie the hands of Maine's state and municipal governments to perform the basic function of providing social services to the people of Maine.

For Maine's economic future and for all of the students in our public school systems, I will vote ''no'' on Question 4 this Nov. 3. Maine people have said no to this same proposal in 2006. We have already decided.

Erin Cianchette

Cumberland

As written on the ballot, Question 4 (TABOR II) sounds innocuous, and intentionally so; TABOR proponents know this measure would not pass if Maine voters knew what they were actually voting for.

In reality, this is not about voter control; the option for a voter referendum is a red herring.

TABOR is designed to force perpetual reductions in government spending with each retraction of the state economy. The baseline for expenditures would be the previous budget appropriations, while increases in state spending would be limited to a national measure of inflation.

However, many state costs increase at a rate much faster than inflation. Temporary cuts would become permanent as expenditure cutbacks during state revenue declines resulting from economic downturns cannot be restored without a costly voter referendum.

In Colorado, the only state in which national proponents of TABOR have succeeded, voters recently permanently repealed this ''ratchet'' effect due to the devastation it has caused.

Additionally, Colorado voters suspended TABOR entirely for five years to allow the state to recover from the deterioration in state services.

This is a particularly bad time for TABOR. Because federal dollars are excluded from the appropriations formula, this will result in an immediate decrease in aid to local schools of 10 percent in the next biennial budget due to the use of federal stimulus funds in the current budget, unless other compensatory cuts are found in an already tight General Fund.

We just don't need TABOR now. LD 1, enacted only four years ago, already contains severe restrictions on general fund appropriations, but avoids the TABOR's ratcheting effects by giving the state the opportunity to restore services after a recession and also includes income growth in the growth-limit formula.

LD 1 has been working effectively to reduce government spending. Please vote ''no'' on Question 4.

Will Rowan

Scarborough

Transportation bond vital

for state's infrastructure

Question 6 on the November ballot is the transportation bond initiative. Some people may think that bond initiatives passed in earlier years and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds are sufficient to cover all transportation funding needs in Maine.

In fact, the ARRA funds allocated to Maine were a great help in getting us through a tough 2009 construction season.

Unfortunately, that is all the funds did. All of the ARRA-funded projects are currently either complete or under contract, with little work carrying over to 2010. Continuing reductions in motor fuel user fee receipts are negatively impacting the Highway Fund budget.

Maine needs this bond package to take care of the most basic road maintenance and to leverage $148 million in federal and other matching funds.

Voting ''yes'' on Question 6 will promote business growth and support 4,600 good-paying jobs across our state.

It will also support critical airport, rail and port investments and enhance LifeFlight's emergency medical services.

Please support Maine's economy and transportation system by voting ''yes'' on Question 6.

Jim Hanley

Gray

Maine has had a lot of gloomy news lately, but we are in a position to create jobs and save lives by passing the transportation bond in November.

Because Maine is such a rural state, we are very dependent on good roads and safe bridges.

Citizens should demand that transportation safety be more of a priority. Maine voters know the importance of roads and bridges since they have passed recent bonds with high margins.

Question 6 on the Nov. 3 ballot will not only improve roads, but also provide funding for critical projects in the marine, aviation and rail sectors.

These are long-term investments for capital projects that will be with us for generations to come.

I believe it is a very wise use of scant public dollars.

The $71.25 million in the transportation bond will generate $219 million including matching funds, making it an excellent investment for Maine.

Voting ''yes'' on Question 6 will save lives and create or sustain more than 4,000 jobs.

Thomas L. Gorrill, P.E.

Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers, Inc.

Gray

The recent news that the Amtrak Downeaster has had its federal funding extended is very good news for Maine.

Still, there is more we can do right here at home to improve our railroads here in Maine -- and that is vote yes on the transportation bond, Question 6 on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The bond includes $4 million investments in our state's rail assets, from the Maine Department of Transportation's new ''Critical Rail Corridors'' program to continued funding of the immensely successful Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP).

Both of these programs follow a model that is a good one for our times. They take valuable public resources -- state rail lines and public money -- and encourage private investment to promote the freight and passenger use of rail.

MDOT estimates that $4 million in public investment will yield another $4 million in private investment by businesses operating in Maine.

We are fortunate to have a good congressional delegation and support in Washington that has helped us keep the Amtrak line alive here, but we need to do our part to support rail in Maine: Vote ''yes'' on Question 6, and thank you.

John Duncan

PACTS Director

Yarmouth

I am one of the owners of RJ Grondin & Sons, a third-generation construction firm. We build and repair roads and underground infrastructure, so I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone reading this that we are in favor of the transportation bond.

Our self-interest in this is quite clear. What may not be as clear to some people is how this bond is in the interest of everyone in the state.

Thanks to the economy, there is very little private work available to bid on compared to a couple of years ago. Right now, public projects are just about the only game in town.

Since there isn't enough work to keep companies busy, we're cutting our prices to the bone to remain competitive. State and local governments are now getting very aggressive pricing on projects that they send out the door.

To pick one example, the town of Gorham will be breaking ground on a new school soon, one that we're fortunate enough to be doing the earthwork. The overall project came in 20 percent lower than the engineer's estimate.

Please vote ''yes'' on Question 6. Your tax dollars will get a better bang for the buck because of it.

Phil Grondin Jr.

R.J. Grondin & Sons

Gorham

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