AUGUSTA – Last fall, for the first time in 50 years, Maine Republicans earned control of the Maine Senate, House of Representatives and the governorship. Although 100 days is not a lot of time to turn around the state, we have made a good start.

Readers are no doubt aware of the serious problems that the new Legislature has inherited. These include:

A budget shortfall that, at one point, was estimated to be $1 billion.

A projected highway fund budget shortfall of $720 million over the next two years.

An embarrassing $400 million debt to our hospitals; and a retirement system that will cost Maine $916 million over the next two years (up from $629 million in the previous budget cycle).

Add to this last fall’s Forbes magazine ranking, which placed Maine dead last for “Best States to Do Business.”

So we have rolled up our sleeves and worked across the aisle to begin to move Maine forward. We have already achieved significant results, and the processes that we are employing lay the groundwork for future prosperity. Here are some of the highlights from our first 100 days in charge:

1.) Efficient, effective, affordable state government: Senate Republicans, mindful that we must lead by example, immediately took steps to reduce the cost of the Senate president’s office by over 20 percent, nearly $100,000 less than our predecessors. We did so knowing that we needed to lead by example before making difficult budget decisions.

Under Republican leadership, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee aggressively investigated the Maine Turnpike Authority, and has turned its findings over to the state Attorney General’s Office for a criminal investigation.

2.) Job creation: Republicans along with Democrats embarked on a series of statewide public hearings on regulatory fairness and reform designed to get ideas on how to make it easier for Maine entrepreneurs and businesses to create jobs. Our first legislative act was L.D. 1, An Act To Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform.

This legislation and the ongoing process that we have created will result in future job creation, job retention, and expanded opportunities for Maine people. This is a first step in changing the culture at all levels of state government to one that makes good jobs and economic opportunity the mission of every department.

3.) Access to health care:Maine hospitals, particularly those serving small communities, were owed an embarrassing $400 million. This debt compromised access to health care and likely contributed to the loss of 600 good-paying jobs in Maine over the last several years.

We enacted a supplemental budget (one of two already approved) that makes a significant down payment on money owed as far back as 2006. We will soon unveil a plan to rein in Maine’s runaway health insurance costs by allowing Mainers to purchase health insurance across state lines, making it more affordable for individuals, businesses and families.

4.) Tax policy: Taxation Committee Republicans recently unveiled a $203 million tax cut for Maine’s working families that will eliminate 70,000 low-income filers from state income tax liability. This measure will also help stop the flight of capital out of Maine and ultimately generate more jobs.

Even with the accomplishments outlined above, we know that a well-developed legislative process that fully engages the public will result in a better, stronger Maine at the end of this and future legislative sessions.

It has been said that “the beauty of empowering others is that your own power is not diminished in the process.” In many cases we are giving voice to and empowering people who have been left out of the legislative process for too long — namely Maine’s taxpayers!

We remain confident that when we adjourn in June, we will have put in place a solid foundation upon which Maine’s future prosperity will be built. Expect even more from us in the coming months!

– Special to The Press Herald