An American gangster reportedly once said, “Christmas is for cops and kids.” The inference is that while kids often ask for and receive what is on their wish list this gangster was in the business of paying off big city officers. Both of these groups got what they wanted. I think it is high time that we add another group of people to that quote from long ago, that group being politicians.

Can’t you envision a mall Santa sitting on his decorated throne, a sea of perfectly dressed pols amongst him? All waiting for their chance to sit on Santa’s lap to tell him what they want for the upcoming Legislative session. After all, this is the time of year when some really interesting ideas come to the forefront.

And by interesting I mean disastrous.

It does not stop the pols from launching these ideas like some putrid balloon. After all, they get free ink in some of Maine’s most journalistic hot spots and for people who live to see their names in print or on screen nothing could be better.

So here are just a few of the ideas that have been thrown around recently on tv, in print and on social media, all brought to you by your elected officials.

Maine is going to study the idea of a Universal Basic Income. UBI? WTH? UBI is the idea that all Mainers deserve some sort of wage regardless of their having done anything to earn the money. The study will look at the feasibility of giving every Mainer $1,000 per month.

Now, just for time’s sake, let’s say that there are 1.3 million people in the state. If Maine instituted this idea checks totaling $1.3 billion would be cut every month. For a year that would total $15.6 billion. That is a big number.

But wait, there’s more!

Maine operates on a 2-year budget cycle and this would mean that the state would pony up $31.2 billion over that time. Hmm, if Maine’s current budget for the 2-year term is about $8 billion (and remember, I am using rough numbers), where is that additional money coming from?

How much will taxes have to be raised on everyone from the top wage earners in Maine to your minimum wage workers to make this plan feasible? Short answer is that this plan is not feasible but we are still going to waste time and resources to study this to death.

One person’s pet project is another person’s cash cow.

Next up is an increase in the gas tax. Remember when a pol would tell you that they wanted higher efficiency cars. They wanted cars to drive more miles on less gas. They wanted all of us driving a coal powered electric car.

Well, those chickens have finally come home to roost because if your car is more efficient then you are not buying as much gas and tax collecting has fallen off per driver in the state. So now the pols want to have their cake and eat it too.

Between state gas taxes, which are 30-cents per gallon, and federal gas taxes, we pay almost 50-cents per gallon in taxes. At least one Representative wants to see the gas tax raised by about 20%. So sure, why not. Let’s raise taxes some more. It is not like we will stop taking out a bond or anything. I mean someone will eventually pay the bill, right?

Then we come to the tolling of Maine’s roads. I am not just talking about the Turnpike. No, they will be raising tolls to pay for the new Gorham spur, but these new tolls could be coming to a road near you soon. Very soon.

Members of the Legislature have kicked the idea around of placing tolls on I-295. Imagine toll plazas popping up like little concrete mushrooms in Brunswick and Freeport and everywhere that you access the highway. Imagine driving into Portland on a summer day and the traffic looks like the York toll booth on Labor Day. Cars and irritated drivers as far as the eye can see.

But why stop at I-295? I am sure if we pressed the Legislature hard enough, we could get tolls placed on every road in Maine. After all, if more tax money, I mean revenue, is collected, then all will be right with the world.

I can just see it now. Come off of the highway onto Pleasant Street and you owe a dollar. Now travel down to Maine Street where you are confronted with a toll taker. If you turn right maybe the toll is only 50-cents. However, if you turn left and enter the congested Downtown Brunswick Restaurant Zone you might owe a dollar.

You get to Cook’s Corner and there is another toll. Not only have we provided thousands of new jobs for toll takers, we have provided tens of millions of dollars in taxes, I mean revenue, for the town and state to spend on new ideas like Universal Basic Income.

The next time someone from Augusta, at this time of year, says they have an idea remember that Christmas is for kids and politicians.

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]

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