Here we go again because for me it’s another case of completely rewriting this column for the sole reason that the Maine Legislature is in session. Only God knows what will come out of this session as the law of the land or, even worse, what comes out of our wallets.

The biggest problem I have is the fact that members of the Legislature, just like the U.S. Congress, can set their own salaries and term limits as they choose. Only a huge public outcry could influence a change in their attitude.

Here in Maine one state legislator has proposed legislation to double their salaries while joining with another legislator to propose doing away with the myth of term limits set by a people’s referendum years ago.

As luck would have it, Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake is the one proposing a salary increase for Maine legislators to $41,000 for a two-year term (presently it’s $17,500) if my figures are close. He has also proposed increasing the governor’s salary from $70,000 to $120,000. There is also some finagling on the legislator’s salaries if they receive Social Security, which tells me that helps give them some sort of tax break on income taxes. Ain’t that some kind of surprise to you?

Most of us on Social Security received something like a 1.8-percent cost-of-living increase while the true rate of inflation is hidden by our federal government but undoubtedly in some years has been closer to 15 percent. I can bet that a whole lot of people would love to see their salaries more than double. The problem with that is that members of the Legislature can vote themselves a pay raise while most of us little people can’t. Our state legislators will cry poverty but I know that they don’t spend all year in Augusta either. If Augusta is that expensive, let’s change the state capital.

I would suspect that we will hear things like a shortage of candidates for office, and in some of the smaller corners of Maine that might be true. But I have never seen a lack of candidates running to be governor of any state because it can be a huge stepping stone to an even larger political office like the U.S. Congress where they can still vote for their own salaries at midnight.

I firmly believe that all government pay raises should be voted on by the citizens of this country because they are the ones who will be shelling out their hard-earned money.

But if that isn’t bad enough for you, there is also a proposed piece of legislation that would do away with term limits for state legislators that was drafted by Reps. John Martin and Mark Dion, the former sheriff. For sure, it’s a nice short bill that only states this bill eliminates terms limits for legislators. Too bad Maine voters were duped by the referendum that supposedly set term limits for legislators. The first excuses for abolishing all term limits is the need for experience and continuity in the Legislature. The opposite reasoning is that no term limits ensures a lengthy term of service and allows for those in leadership position to become tyrants. I look at my military service, which began in April 1968 and six months later I was walking life-threatening patrols through the jungles of Vietnam. Have members of the Maine Legislature made their daily business so difficult that it takes years to learn what they must do? Or do they enjoy our tax dollars so much that they want to remain in office for eternity on our dime?

I compare them to Christopher Columbus. He left not knowing where he was going. When he arrived, he didn’t know where he was. When he left he didn’t know where he was leaving from. When he returned he didn’t know where he had been. All done with other people’s money.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wonders how many years it takes to find the doors of the State House in Augusta.


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