Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting Right to Work at Redistributing Wealth in Maine

Maine has two big problems. One is that we don’t have enough good jobs. The other is that we have a governor handing out tax cuts paid for by gutting the public employee pension plan.

The solution to the job problem is attracting new businesses that will hire more people. We need companies to set up shop in new or renovated old buildings, and buy equipment to make things or provide services. It’s pretty simple: we need businesses to invest in Maine.

And why shouldn’t they? We have a very high quality of life, a beautiful environment, low crime and low taxes on business investment. In fact, according to a recent study Maine imposes the smallest burden on new investment compared to all other states. This is due to factors such as a favorable corporate income apportionment formula that compensates for a relatively high tax rate, a property tax exemption for new equipment and low state and local sales tax rates.

Is Maine’s “business-friendly” governor and his henchmen shouting this good news from the roof tops? No. Has there been a press release or email blast by the Maine Heritage Policy Center ? No. Is there at least a new sign on the Interstate with this information?

No, instead we continue to be told by Governor LePage that Maine is drowning in a sea of regulations, and going broke thanks to bloated public employee pensions. With the infamous Forbes Magazine still clenched in his fist, he shouts the tired old GOP cheer. “What do we need? Tax cuts! When do we need them? Now!”

The Governor’s budget drastically reforms the Maine Public Employees Retirement System in order to give out $203 million in tax cuts. The message to the 26,000 retired public employees, whose average pension is $19,000 per year, and who do not receive social security, is “the state made a promise to you, but thankfully the 2008 market downturn, coupled with my administration’s drum-beat of doom gives me the political cover to break the promise.”

It’s no coincidence that the union-busting ‘right-to-work’ bill suddenly came back to life as budget negotiations and the renegotiation of the state employee union contract are straining under the weight of the governor’s bad ideas. Its drama, and another aggressive move to keep people confused and unsteady.

The 45,000 active and 26,000 retired public employees have invested their lives and their money in our public pension system. It is a system that is solvent, fiscally sound and responsibly managed. It should not be gutted to give tax cuts that are not needed, won’t attract investment to Maine, or create jobs.