Who doesn’t want a tax cut? Who doesn’t want more money in their pocket? Who wants to pay more than they absolutely have to for anything and/or why should they? That’s bad business.
Life, however, comes with a cost attached. There is a price tag for each and every one of the goods we consume and the services we enjoy.
Beyond the individual choices we are free to make, where to live, where to shop; what we drive and eat and otherwise pursue, there is a collective cost for the machinery that makes everything else run – the schools, the roads, and police and safety and so on.
In recent years, as our state and federal governments have horribly mismanaged their budgets, our local officials have squeezed their nickels and tightened their belts.
Now at the state and federal level, they are getting to the place our local officials have been living for quite some time: There are precious few nickels left to squeeze and very little room on the belt left for another notch.
It is our studied opinion that Maine’s local form of government is the most efficient when it comes to budgets. No one knows what their community needs or can afford more than the sitting selectmen, school board, and budget committee members.
While costs have risen over the years, it is our observation our local officials have done the best they can, across the board, to keep budgets down. In our experience, local tax increases in recent years have more to do with decisions made at the county, state, and federal levels than they do with the largesse of our local boards.
We submit the budget debates in recent years in Wiscasset and Waldoboro and elsewhere, have less to do with cutting fat than they do with agreeing on priorities. In the 19 municipalities in Lincoln County anyway, there is precious little to cut.
So now we are at the point where the Governor is trying to fill a budget gap in part by taking money from local revenue sharing. That helps the state budget but it does nothing to eliminate the local expenses that revenue was used for. If the Governor’s budget is adopted, local boards are going to clobber their constituents with the related tax increases. They will have to.
The Governor is standing firm on the Republican talking point of no new revenue, never, no way, no how, but in the contortions necessary to walk that line, he has resorted to the worst tactics of the state officials who came before him. He is shifting revenue and calling it tax relief.
What it comes down is this: We submit there is a basic level of services that should be handled at the state level. The state budget is the appropriate venue for addressing those expenses. If a tax increase is off the table, the question becomes how are we going to pay for those services?
LePage said himself, in his State of the State address last week, there are precious few areas left to cut. We are getting down to people and programs. If we are going to keep them, we need to pay for them. Now, it is not about fat. It is about priorities.