The discussions during the Democratic gubernatorial debates were distressing to say the least, and illustrate how out of touch our elected officials truly are. Libby Mitchell’s comments about “investing” in a bond measure and Steve Rowe’s statement that the “complexities of the economic problems that face Maine government” suggest that we, the residents of Maine, are incapable of understanding how these difficulties arose and continue to plague us. May I offer the suggestion that the root cause of Maine’s current economic difficulties is really quite simple: the excessive accumulation of debt.
When lawmakers float a bond to balance a budget or pay for a project, they increase that debt and the interest costs to service it, currently $92 million a year, and in the coming fiscal year $137 million. According to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, our state has a total debt of $11.5 billion, including unfunded public pension and health-care costs of $6.2 billion. This is an enormous hole, and the explanation by our officials that other states are in worse shape do not justify their actions in Maine.
Here are some answers: stop borrowing, pay off some debt, make state government smaller and less intrusive, make public officials more responsible for their own health and pension costs, lay off unneeded public workers, retire programs that cost too much or don’t work well and server the taxpayer, not the other way around. This is an election year; elect officials who promise to address the debt issue as their first priority.