Last spring, when I heard that the Brookings Institution, an admittedly liberal think tank, was going to author a report on fixing Maine’s economic problems, I thought immediately that we would just receive a report that recommends higher taxes and more spending.

It was widely publicized that this report was being paid for by GrowSmart Maine. This is an organization led by Alan Caron, a Democrat consultant that led the fight to stop the widening of the turnpike in the early 1990s. Just that fact alone should have made people suspicious of the content of any report they endorsed. Stopping the widening hurt Maine’s economy short term. It was done in the name of environmentalism. That also should give you a hint of what would be contained in the report.

My cynical nature came out and I kept saying that since the Governor has no plan to move this state forward economically, he would use this report as his own plan. As predicted the Governor and the Democrats have clung to this plan as the salvation of Maine. They can’t utter a word out of their mouth without mentioning Brookings. They completely ignore the fact that even Brookings recognizes that Maine has a tax problem. The ironic part is that Brookings recommends raising taxes to solve our tax problem. That fact alone should make you scratch your head about the content of the report. Why aren’t the many other reports that have reached different conclusions from Brookings ever mentioned? It is called selective data. Only use the data that satisfies your argument and the conclusions that you want to reach.

Alan Caron has gained notoriety running around the state raising money and conducting seminars on this report. He now has the Democrat majority at his beck and call. The Governor’s office can justify raising taxes and putting forward a very large bond package because it is in the Brookings report. I encourage you to take a look at the GrowSmart Maine Web site and look at the board of directors. I would dare say that free market economics is not a strong suit. This board would undoubtedly find a government solution to any problem.

The report recommends almost $400 million in a bond package to address things like a “quality places” fund and an “innovation jobs” fund. They claim this will create jobs. Once again a government solution and theory that government creates jobs. How many of you remember the $100 million jobs bond that was passed in the late 1990s? Did anyone actually follow up to see how many jobs were created? The answer is no and if you look at Maine’s economy, I would dare say we could have flushed that money down the toilet and created the same amount of jobs. The dirty little secret of bonds in Maine is that nobody asks for accountability. Numbers are bandied about, but no verification follows to see if goals were achieved.

Brookings also recommends what they call a 3-point increase in the meals and lodging tax. That sounds comparatively small except that it amounts to a 43 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax. Then they go on to state that mostly tourists pay the meals and lodging tax. There is no substantiation of that assertion. It almost implies that Maine residents never go out to eat or spend a night in any hotel in Maine.

The report does speak about school consolidation and all the money that could be saved. Hence the Governor comes out with a controversial school consolidation plan. Maybe he’ll read the part where it states that Maine needs to reduce taxes and propose a tax reduction. I doubt it.

In reading the report, I questioned if any of the authors traveled to Aroostook, Washington, or Piscataquis counties. I tend to doubt it. My point in this message is that this report should not be held to any higher standard than other reports that have been written. We have problems in Maine and no one solution is the answer, but we have ways out of this dilemma if we actually have the courage to do so.

The same solutions have been tried for 32 years (coincidental to the number of years that Democrats have been in charge). I remember that the Governor appointed a blue ribbon commission to solve the problems of Washington County unemployment. David Flanagan was the Chairman of the Commission. They wrote a detailed report with varying solutions. Nothing happened. The Governor shelved that report without putting forth a solution. Correspondingly, the Governor did not carry Washington County in the last election. Let’s hope that the people of Maine will realize the same thing when this report will only be used to support large bond requests and tax increases.

Raymond resident Joseph Bruno is chairman of the Maine Republican Party.


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