When I read Sen. Chris Johnson’s latest commentary in The Lincoln County News, it was no surprise he attempted to bash me and criticize our administration’s every move. However, his story is conveniently missing facts and fails to offer any viable solutions to move Maine forward on a path to prosperity. Here’s the rest of the story.
Sen. Johnson is a big spender – his voting record confirms it. After a $6.5 billion budget passed, he supported spending an additional $300 million last July. His appetite for your taxpayer dollars is insatiable.
Sen. Johnson would have you believe the governor’s job is to propose a supplemental budget, even when the state does not need it. Instead of spending every extra dollar we have on hand, I encourage legislators to work on a long-term financial strategy that improves Maine’s financial stability for the future.
I eagerly await the outcome in November and will work with the incoming 128th Legislature to fashion an appropriate supplemental budget to address our most critical needs.
Sen. Johnson thinks that bonds will make everything better, too. Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand economics. I am working to improve the state’s credit rating from AA to AAA. This will save millions of dollars for Maine taxpayers. It will take time and discipline, but if we are prudent, it can be accomplished. For instance, the difference in interest paid with a triple-A credit rating compared to a double-A rating on a $250 million bond is nearly $12.5 million over 10 years.
Sen. Johnson is hurting Mainers who are elderly and/or disabled. Instead of fully funding the waitlist – as I did in my budget last year – he left thousands of elderly and disabled Mainers waiting for health-care services. Taking his marching orders from Democratic leadership, Sen. Johnson voted to provide only a fraction of what is needed to provide those services: $16 million instead of $46 million.
Sen. Johnson complained about our administration’s work to improve Riverview Psychiatric Center, then completely disregarded proposed remedies. He blocked all efforts outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services, including a solution to the staff shortage, which he accuses the administration of not addressing.
DHHS has advocated for additional staff – and greater freedom from restrictive union work rules – that will enable Riverview to transition into a 21st century mental-health center of excellence. The administration has also supported a secure rehabilitation facility to house and treat violent patients whom the courts have found “not criminally responsible,” as well as those whom have not yet been given permission from the court to be back in the community.
Socialist politicians like Sen. Johnson have fought against our common-sense reforms for years, but the Maine people support and appreciate our efforts. They want action, not words, and we are delivering results.
Our administration is working every day to bring accountability and reform to Maine’s welfare programs while helping Mainers move from welfare to work and from poverty to prosperity. We are adding 200 beds to provide treatment for offenders addicted to drugs in Washington County, and I have signed into law a mandate of prescriber participation in the Prescription Monitoring Program. It will set limits for the strength and duration of opioid prescriptions, and it requires that doctors submit opioid prescriptions electronically beginning next year, as well as undergo addiction training every two years.
Socialist legislators took a year-and-a-half to authorize less than half the drug agents we need to take dealers off the streets, then criticized our administration for not providing treatment to addicts.
I urge you to ask Sen. Johnson why he constantly carps and complains, rather than offers meaningful alternatives to help Mainers prosper.
We can have a secure social safety net for our elderly, disabled, and mentally ill while exercising financial discipline, but only if there is a willingness to prioritize “needs” versus “likes.” We do not have unlimited taxpayer dollars to fund everything we would like government to, but we do have a responsibility to take care of our most vulnerable citizens, grow jobs, and provide opportunities for all Mainers.
The governor shares the responsibility with the Legislature to ensure the state achieves a balanced budget. My administration has assured lawmakers that we can maintain a balanced budget through next year.
Socialists are big spenders, and for decades their tactics have not been subject to scrutiny. But the buck stops here. After much hard work, the state of Maine has finally shifted from continuous budget shortfalls to modest budget surpluses.
Out-of-control spending by liberals and socialists must be stopped. Democrats want to spend the people’s money as quick as they can get their hands on it. Despite our efforts to put more money into the “rainy day fund,” we only have an eight-day reserve on hand if Maine’s economy turns south. Unfortunately, voters are facing numerous referendum questions in November that, if enacted, have the potential to send our economy into a recession.
Instead of spending every extra dollar we have on hand today, I encourage legislators to work on a long-term financial strategy that improves Maine’s financial stability for the future. As for your senator, I hope he doesn’t spend his own money like he spends yours.
(Paul R. LePage is Maine’s governor.)