Governor Paul LePage laid out a convincing case for his proposed budget in Waldoboro last Wednesday. Granted, he had a receptive audience in the form of the Lincoln County Republican Committee, but it was still an impressive performance given the budget’s complexity.
LePage is making the rounds to local groups primarily, according to his staff, because he wants to be out in front of this process. This proposal builds on the priorities outlined in his last budget and no doubt sets the stage for the next one to come.
As the numbers make clear, LePage is determined to cut taxes and state services.
Last week he described a vision in which the reduction and eventual elimination of the state income tax allows Maine taxpayers to keep more of their own money and, absent state revenue sharing, towns will figure out how to provide the services their residents have become accustomed to.
Between them, the towns and their local taxpayers will figure out what works effectively and efficiently. The result should be a leaner, meaner government that provides the services residents want at the level they are willing to pay for.
If it works.
However, you don’t need to be a critic to notice there are serious questions to be answered, such as the proposal to recoup some income by taxing nonprofits. That is going to be a hard case to make. While the governor was convincing last week, this is a state where nonprofits already do a lot of things for not a lot of money and this proposal could be a backbreaker for perpetually cash-strapped concerns.
Then too, income tax reductions are shown to disproportionately favor those with more money than those with less. Those with less already spend the bulk of their income just getting by. Those with more typically end up with more.
Either way it is not a given that extra money in private pockets will be spent on the things that make an economy go and Mainers will have to literally buy in for this plan to work. Paul LePage said as much last week.
If this budget is adopted as proposed, it will dramatically reshape the way the state does business, but not even the governor’s most ardent supporter believes LePage will get everything he asked for by the time the budget completes its journey through the Legislature.
We are interested in seeing what comes out of the House and Senate. Despite the governor’s demonstrated attitude toward his political opponents, they have valid concerns that need to be addressed.
Paul LePage is a divisive figure. He knows that. It is part of his charm. However, he did produce a budget proposal that follows the platform he campaigned on. That’s for the good. We honestly think we would be in a better place if more politicians said what they meant and did what they said.
Now we would like to see this budget debated on its merits. Never the mind the man. What about the math?