Why is it that the city of Portland is spending 50 percent more on General Assistance welfare than it was during the height of the recession? Why does Portland account for 5 percent of the state’s population but 63 percent of all General Assistance spending in Maine?

These are some very inconvenient questions for Mayor Michael Brennan and the City Council. No wonder Gov. LePage wants to put controls on General Assistance spending, most of which is paid for by the state.

What really bothers me as a Portland taxpayer is that city leaders can seem to think only of property tax hikes and cuts to other departments as solutions to cover General Assistance cuts from the state.

How about reducing General Assistance spending? It’s likely that that hasn’t crossed city leaders’ minds. Despite similar levels of poverty, Portland spends 13 times more on General Assistance than Lewiston-Auburn.

Over 20 percent of the city’s general fund goes to paying down debt on previously borrowed money. This is the single largest piece of the city budget. Any complaint from city officials about losing General Assistance is a red herring. The city of Portland does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem.

To make matters worse, the city is already cutting overtime and benefits for city workers to pay for welfare for noncitizens since the state stopped reimbursing for that, too.

Just where are the mayor’s priorities? As a taxpayer in the city, I think it’s clear that they are not with people like me.

Patrick Calder