Whether Greg Kesich would like to admit it or not, Gov. LePage and the Republicans in the Legislature were elected to the majority because the people of Maine wanted us to find solutions to problems that can no longer be avoided.

His opinion piece in your Dec. 14 issue is just another example of a mischaracterization of the governor and his intentions.

The governor does not enjoy this need to cut Medicaid, nor does he or his staff welcome the type of problems that they must address.

It is a matter of confronting the hard realities facing the state of Maine and making choices to preserve services for some of our most vulnerable citizens when we only have so many resources to go around.

The simple fact is this: Maine has a spending problem in the Medicaid budget. Federal resources are shrinking, and previous legislatures have known there was a problem but chose not to address it.

That had to change and Republicans are leading the way, putting ideas on the table to fix it.

At a time when many are facing uncertainty in the job market and rising costs at home, we should, as the governor suggested, put aside partisan posturing and get to work on these problems together.

The public is weary of incendiary remarks and condescending comments.

If that is all Mr. Kesich has to contribute, I hope he is not upset that he writes himself out of the conversation on how we work to solve this problem, because these are real issues affecting real people.

For years, the Legislature under Democrat majorities papered over the problem, using gimmicks such as shutdown days, also known as pay cuts for state employees; estimated hospital payments, also known as not paying the bills owed to Maine’s hospitals; and carryovers of payments from one year’s budget cycle pushed into the next year, so as to “balance” the budget.

Then came the federal “stimulus” funds, used not for roads and bridges to put people back to work, but rather to hide the unsustainable growth in our very, very generous welfare programs.

On all of these issues, the Republicans in Augusta led the way. We refused to use the same gimmicks to avoid the real problems facing our state.

We ensured state employees would work 40 hours a week and be paid for their efforts.

We paid the hospitals back for years of outstanding bills.

Moreover, when Gov. LePage and the Republicans came into office this year, we substantially increased the MaineCare budget to make up for lost “stimulus” money.

We did all that and still found a way to give Maine taxpayers some relief.

Tax cuts for the rich? Well, if you are making more than $19,950 in Maine, you are in Maine’s highest tax bracket.

Following Mr. Kesich’s logic, you must be rich. Congratulations!

Now we stand at a point where we, as a state, need to decide our future.

Are our social programs a safety net for the most vulnerable, or are they government handouts for favored constituencies?

Republicans believe those programs exist to protect our neediest and to temporarily help some people when they fall on challenging times, not as a permanent way of life.

We will lead on reforming MaineCare and will seek new ideas to make things better, without putting the cost on Maine taxpayers or Maine hospitals.

If Mr. Kesich and the Democrats have solutions, we stand willing to listen and work with them, just as we did last session with all three budgets, regulatory reform and pension reform.

Make no mistake, however. Republicans are going to heed the call of the voters last November in finding solutions to these problems.

The out-of-control Medicaid spending is not new.

Indeed, Gov. Baldacci, to his credit, recognized that the growth in MaineCare was unsustainable.

In 2004, facing a $141 million budget shortfall, he proposed extensive changes to MaineCare.

When people began to complain, he and his Democrat allies in the Legislature folded their hands and used cuts to core state functions to feed the welfare monster.

Maine’s elected officials can no longer hide from the very real problems we are facing.

It is time to confront them.

It is time to get things under control.

It is time for leadership, and that is why Mainers sent Gov. LePage and the Republican majorities to Augusta. Now we stand at a point where we, as a state, need to decide our future.

State Rep. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, is the assistant majority leader in the Maine House.