Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By REP. ROBERT NUTTING
It's clear after listening to many of my Democrat friends who are on the campaign trail and writing to newspapers that they want to take Maine in a new direction: backward. They are not impressed with the remarkable accomplishments the 125th Legislature made in less than two years under new Republican leadership with a Republican governor. They want to take us back to 2010 before Maine voters decided it was time for a change, following nearly 40 years of failed Democrat policies.
I thought you should know what going back would mean.
• Taxes, under the Democrats' vision, would be raised for nearly half a million Maine households. The largest tax cut passed in Maine history would be scrapped, meaning more of your money would be spent by bureaucrats in Augusta, rather than by you. More than 70,000 low- and medium-income Mainers who had been removed from the tax rolls altogether would be put back on.
• The Democrats would try to reinstitute layers of needless regulatory regulations that business owners around the state identified as their No. 1 obstacle. Restaurants would be subjected to redundant inspections and costly license requirements. The turnaround time for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits, which fell dramatically following the passage of landmark regulatory reform, would once again increase. We would see a return to ridiculous regulations, such as the one that prohibited lobstermen from storing their traps on docks in order to protect seaweed growing beneath them.
• Public schools would have to do without the $63 million increase in education funding that was passed by the 125th Legislature.
• Drug felons could once again receive welfare benefits. TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (note the word "temporary"), and other such programs would again have no time limits and Maine's reputation as a haven for generous welfare benefits would return.
• Health insurance rates would rise. The decreases that small business owners and individuals have seen as our health insurance reforms are phased in would go away and we would return to average yearly premium increases of 14 percent. Your option, beginning in 2014, to purchase health insurance across state lines would end. By going back to 2010, we would return on a path to single-payer, inefficient, government-run health care.
• Workers' compensation in Maine would return to a system that was focused on doling out checks instead of getting people back to work.
• Years ago, the Democrats enacted an automatic yearly increase in the fuel tax so they wouldn't have to publicly vote each year to raise your gas tax. We eliminated that automatic increase, but it could be returned -- an unpleasant thought with the price of gas once again approaching $4 per gallon.
• Democrats could return to the days when government agencies like the Maine Turnpike Authority operated with no oversight, throwing lavish parties and handing out gift cards at taxpayer expense -- practices that went unwatched by previous legislatures.
• We would have to increase the unfunded liability for the state's pension fund to $4.2 billion. By making sensible, modest reforms, the 125th Legislature cut that amount by nearly half. Future legislatures would have to find ways to fund the increased debt that had, before the reform, become widely known as a "ticking time bomb."
• The Legislature would once again continue to increase spending on Medicaid at an unsustainable rate, forcing lawmakers to constantly find ways to cover budget shortfalls by taking money away from vital government services such as education and public safety.
From what I'm reading in the news, Democrats, in the next legislative session, will try to undo the progress that's already benefitting Maine citizens and small businesses. The question is, do Mainers really want to go backward? Based on what I'm hearing, the answer is a resounding no!
Rep. Robert Nutting, R- Oakland, is the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.