I started work at the age of 10 when I began delivering the Press Herald in Portland’s Deering neighborhood. The expectation was that all my hundred or so customers would have their newspapers before seven o’clock in the morning and that their money would be collected by each Tuesday. I lasted about a year.

A few years later, I took over my brother’s route in another neighborhood and kept it all through high school, being mindful of my earlier difficulty with delivery.

This time, the responsibility and routine stuck. In fact, I was so paranoid about getting it right that, to this day, I occasionally wake up in the morning terrified that I’m late for my route or that I haven’t collected from my customers.

I recently returned to the insurance industry as my day job — a business where we sell policies rather than debate them. I now find that there aren’t enough hours in the week for me to do the research and render a well-documented opinion piece, so this is my last column.

I have enjoyed writing about vexing public policy issues such as state spending, taxes, demographics and regulation. But solutions to these challenges need to be transformed into laws that create certainty and fairness from government.

The people who create jobs crave predictability, particularly those who make investments in costly facilities and equipment.

If they fear Maine’s public policy can swing dramatically with every election, high-margin products and high-wage jobs simply will not be part of Maine’s economic future.

In spite of the spitballs and distractions we’ve seen since the election, the voters still expect a stable pension system, an adequately funded highway budget and support for higher education.

They do not expect costs to be shifted onto the local property tax to pay for it. Instead, I believe they are ready for tough, honest and transparent decisions that broaden the tax base and set spending priorities.

Ideally, we should have a super majority of Democrats and Republicans to avoid lurching from one extreme to the other. Why? As documented in the recent report, “Reinventing Maine Government,” Maine can no longer afford to be the outlier when it comes to government costs and regulations.

The same is true for the United States. We should be thankful that Standard & Poor’s, the bond-rating organization that speculates on creditworthiness, just issued a warning to the entire world.

Washington policy makers need to make fundamental changes in spending and taxing or risk that the cost of borrowing could rise. That would mean more of our taxes would go to paying interest and less to providing services. And less money would stay in our pockets.

I want to thank Editor and Publisher Richard Connor and the other editors at MaineToday Media for the opportunity to have space in their newspapers.

If the issues of the day keep me awake, perhaps I’ll get another morning paper route.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you, the citizens of Maine, to engage in the work of our democracy as voters, activists or candidates. It really matters.

It has been heartening to meet so many readers who mention the column and like what they have seen. I also appreciate those who have respectfully disagreed or added their own experience or facts to the conversation.

That, after all, is part of the reason I ask, “what do you think?” at the end of every column

In that spirit and for one last time: What do you think and what are you going to do about it?

Gotta go. I’m late for work.

Tony Payne is a lifelong Maine resident active in business, civic and political affairs. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

 


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