Gov. John Baldacci’s wisdom in resisting tax hikes was validated last week when an unexpected increase in state revenues allowed him to roll back some of the budget reductions he proposed in December.

To his everlasting credit and to the considerable benefit of Mainers and the state’s economy, Baldacci understands what too many government officials and politicians do not: Budget cuts are reversible; tax increases, more often than not, are forever.

When the governor unveiled a $5.5 billion supplemental budget calling for $438 million in spending cuts, the uproar was heard from one end of the state to the other.

The governor wisely and conscientiously spread the potential pain of budget cuts from stem to stern — and all the agencies, groups and individuals who figured to suffer cried out.

Baldacci has stood his ground in the face of public criticism and a reluctant Legislature, insisting that raising taxes during a recession, or coming out of one, is a recipe for disaster.

The nation and the state seem to be tip-toeing toward something that resembles an economic recovery; such tentative steps in the right direction would quickly be erased by adding to the already suffocating tax burden endured by businesses and consumers.

On Wednesday, the governor renewed his December anti-tax vow. The economy is “fragile,” he said, adding that “recovery is far from certain.”

Baldacci proposed reducing the original package of spending cuts by $78.7 million, with $37 million in budget restoration going to the Department of Health and Human Services. Beneficiaries of the additional money will include nursing homes, disability services and mental health programs.

Among the other areas tabbed for budget increases are education, municipalities, retiree health benefits and longevity pay for state workers.

The new spending was made possible by a $51 million increase in state revenues and an increase in federal money targeted for Maine.

The fresh cash will not silence Baldacci’s critics, of course, especially those who would much rather see the state reach deeper into taxpayers’ wallets than tighten their own belts. But the governor has shown he can take the heat.


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