While out driving last week, I caught a bit of the WGAN Morning News with Ken and Mike. A gentleman had called in making the case that while many of us are out here in the media shouting about right-this and left-that, he was just trying to work and survive.
While we are all discussing social issues that belong in the bedroom (this was during the furor in Indiana), he was wondering about the $18 trillion in debt we’ve saddled our kids and grandkids with, and why isn’t anyone talking about that? He was pretty angry.
I get it. But the problem is, like it or not, economics are in fact a right vs. left issue. It’s nearly impossible to say one is a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal. Everyone knows that, right? Liberal policies are extremely costly, and we have a perfect example of that playing out right here in the ongoing state budget battle.
Earlier this month, Democrats voted to continue paying for state-funded welfare for noncitizens, rejected Medicaid payment reform, opposed reforms to methadone reimbursement and the tobacco settlement, and rejected funds for doctors’ primary care reform and staffing improvements at Riverview Psychiatric Center.
Really? That last one is particularly outrageous from the people who claim to care about the mentally ill using taxpayer dollars at homeless shelters, when they have their own money in the bank.
Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, responded to the vote earlier this month by saying, “It is incredibly discouraging to see Democratic lawmakers fighting to continue irresponsible spending and prioritizing able-bodied young adults, over the critical needs of our elderly and severely disabled. We cannot go back to the days of crisis-oriented budgets and uncontrolled program growth that ignores the needs of our most vulnerable.”
Ironically, the bond-rating agency Fitch Ratings had recently announced that it was maintaining Maine’s AA rating for general obligation bonds and an A+ rating for general resolution bonds, specifically due to the state’s management and continued reforms of MaineCare, our Medicaid program.
In 2011, the percentage of Mainers enrolled in Medicaid was almost 50 percent higher than the national average. The Fitch report stated, “In fiscal 2015, unlike in prior years, Maine has not seen significant mid-year budgetary pressure from MaineCare. … Several years ago, the state began implementing major changes to the program including reduced eligibility and provider payments, and elimination of previously covered services. The Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review reports MaineCare general fund spending through January 2015 as essentially flat to fiscal 2014 levels. To date, the (LePage) administration reports MaineCare’s budgeted savings targets are on track to be met.”
Perhaps the Democrats in Augusta hadn’t had a chance to read the report before voting. Mayhew responded to the Fitch rating by saying, “Democrats proposed to increase DHHS spending without any corresponding cuts and to raise taxes to pay for it, and that is exactly the kind of policy that created the mess the governor inherited in 2011. That behavior will only hurt Maine’s bond rating and increase the cost of servicing Maine’s debt, the burden of which ultimately falls on the taxpayers. Instead, Maine must continue to reform and prioritize its services in order to keep its Medicaid program sustainable.”
A March 31 Maine Center for Disease Control press release points out that after opposing further eligibility and payment reforms that would align Maine with the rest of the country, lawmakers failed to identify alternative savings to provide the $70 million necessary to fund critical services to our elderly in nursing facilities and severely disabled Mainers on Medicaid waiting lists.
“The people of Maine have spoken loudly, making clear that they want a DHHS that prioritizes our most vulnerable citizens, is fiscally responsible, pays its bills on time, and isn’t looking for another bailout from the taxpayers for its uncontrolled growth,” Mayhew said.
In the end, it’s all about spending priorities, and protecting taxpayers and our most vulnerable at the same time. Liberals want to spend your money, your children’s money, and your perhaps yet-unborn grandchildren’s money, as if there is an unlimited supply.
Keep voting for liberals, and you’ll get more economic chaos.