Friday, March 7, 2014
Bruce Poliquin is the former Maine State Treasurer and a 2012 Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate. He has 35 years of experience owning and managing businesses. Bruce is a proud third-generation Franco-American Mainer and Harvard University graduate. Visit BrucePoliquin.net for his most recent commentary and analysis on media outlets throughout the State about the important issues facing Maine families and their jobs.
The 300,000 residents of Stockton, California, a short distance from San Francisco, are suffering under years of government overspending. Elected officials have promised generous pensions and free lifetime health care for municipal employees that the taxpayers can no longer afford. The city recently filed for bankruptcy, the largest U.S. municipality to do so.
Stockton residents are living under reduced fire and police protection. Public library and recreation budgets have been slashed. Bondholders, who loaned the city money when they purchased its municipal bonds, have seen their interest and principal payments halted. All the while, city officials have continued to pay the unsustainable pension benefits to municipal workers.
Click to read the Los Angeles Times article “Stockton Bankruptcy Can Move Forward, Judge Rules.”
Towns, cities, and states across America have borrowed roughly $4 trillion to fund road, bridge and port construction, and other public infrastructure projects. In planning their retirements, millions of senior citizens loaned most of this money to the municipal and state governments when they bought their bonds. Will seniors now lose these nest egg investments as more cash-strapped governments continue to pay for overly generous public sector pension and health care benefits instead of repaying their loans from bondholders?
A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with a Lewiston grandmother excited about visiting one of her sons and his family living in Virginia. She looked forward to spending Easter weekend with the grandkids but wasn’t thrilled about the long drive. Two of her other three children and their families also live away – in New Hampshire and Connecticut. The grandmother worried about not being able to see her family during Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as Easter, when she could no longer make the trips.
How many times have we Mainers heard this story? Increasingly, our young workers and their families are forced to leave because they can’t find promising jobs here in Maine. Many want to return home but cannot. Too many of our kids and grandkids grow up without the joy and comfort of their parents and grandparents nearby. It’s no surprise that Mainers have the oldest average age in the country.
Government can help our families by assisting the business community in creating more and better jobs. Let’s take a look at the current situation that might serve as a guide going forward.
The graph below maps the past six U.S. economic recessions and recoveries as measured by employment. The years to the right of each line indicate the periods of each recession/recovery. When the lines fall, jobs were lost. When the lines rise, jobs were created.
Across the nation, education reforms are helping our K-12 students learn more to live happier and more prosperous lives. Sadly, last week, this initiative took a sour turn in one of our major cities.
The former superintendent and senior staff of the Atlanta Public School System, along with a number of teachers, were indicted by a grand jury for inflating the scores on standardized tests taken by students. State investigators reported that teachers instructed students to “fix” answers during the tests, and that the teachers themselves “adjusted” answers after the tests. In some cases, copies of the tests and the answers were made available to the students beforehand. 44 of 56 Atlanta schools that were examined demonstrated systematic cheating.
Click here to read the Wall Street Journal article “Ex-Head of Atlanta Schools Indicted in Cheating Probe.”
Education should be about the kids, not the grown-ups. Honest assessments of student, teacher, and administrator achievement will lead to better schools and more learning. Cutting corners hurts everyone.
One of the most important fiscal questions facing Maine today is “Will state government pay 39 hospitals the $484 million they are owed?” This enormous debt is negatively impacting Maine families as hospital patients, hospital employees, and Maine taxpayers.
In this short video www.brucepoliquin.net/video-maines-hospital-debt/, I explain when and how this huge debt accumulated, and why it’s so important to pay it off now. I also discuss a proposed strategy to pay the $484 million bill even though Augusta is facing an $800 million budget shortfall, again.
Right now, the Maine Legislature is deliberating whether or not to pay our hospitals the $484 million they are owed. This is the right time to contact your state legislators and let your voices be heard.
I hope you find this 2:36 minute video helpful www.brucepoliquin.net/video-maines-hospital-debt/.
We all know that a growing economy creates more jobs for our fellow Mainers. That leads to better opportunities and fatter paychecks, and less government dependency and poverty. More jobs also generate more tax revenues to pave our roads, educate our kids, and care for the needy.
Our state government serves the people of Maine. It should do everything possible to help Maine families live better lives. It should do everything possible to help our businesses succeed and provide jobs, which grows the economy. This should not be a partisan issue.
Common sense and decades of data confirm that businesses and economies grow best when taxes are low, regulations are reasonable and predictable, energy and health insurance costs are affordable, and workers are well prepared. These conditions create a less expensive and less complicated place in which to conduct business. This, in turn, gives companies a better chance to succeed and hire more workers.
Wouldn’t it be terrific if Maine had an inviting business climate instead of being ranked 50th by Forbes Magazine?