By Christopher W. Pinkham
Tax time always causes the Pinkham family to look at budgeting. When did the CMP bill pass $100 a month? Do we really need $86 a month of cable TV and Internet access? What about trash collection at $15.50 a month? Isn’t that really a luxury? I’ll feel better after the discussion, and the family knows that my ranting will pass because what our teenagers really hope is that I will not look hard at the gasoline bill or the minutes used on our cell phones.
The State of Maine needs to pause and take the same inward look. I honestly believe there are a few people in the state who want to curtail huge portions of state and municipal governments. At the same time I believe most of us look at our own expenditures and try to live within our means, and while there are periodic cases of binge-buying (I really needed that circular saw on sale at Sears), for the most part we understand our available resources. That’s the disconnect in Augusta and at local government levels. My town has one of the finest fleets of snowplows and a very cool sidewalk plow that appears to have everything in the cab to fight the winter except for a coffeemaker. Additionally, we have fire trucks with a unique color and custom-designed cabs on the entire fleet. At the state level, our State House renovation was decades overdue, our bridges and highways need regular attention, and our educational system, kindergarten through university, will continue to need additional money. The demands are unending.
This is my own thought process on Maine’s budget. If elected officials really want to convince Mainers not to support upcoming referendums that will cap expenditures, then they need to demonstrate their ability to manage the state budget and give the citizens visible examples of cooperative efforts, streamlined government agencies and benefits to individuals such as reduced time for registration, licensing or complaint resolution. We all recognize that roads need to be resurfaced and the health insurance system is not performing satisfactorily, but no one expects a windfall of a billion dollars to fix these problems. So, a visit to the expense side of government is in order.
If officials would recognize that no one wants to end the best parts of government, but citizens simply want government to endure the same belt tightening and evaluation of expenses that we all do in our personal lives. Rolling up their sleeves to evaluate how to trim expenditures would be an excellent “job one” for the Maine Legislature.
Christopher W. Pinkham is president of the Maine Association of Community Banks.