In 2008, Maine set a shameful record. This past year we sent more money to Augusta, as a percentage of income, than ever before. Unfortunately, it gets even worse. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Maine is on pace to send almost forty cents of each dollar to the capitol in 2009.
For over a decade now, Augusta has been getting bigger. As a result, we have lost jobs, tax revenue, businesses, teachers and public services. Despite all this evidence, unions, legislators and bureaucrats want us to think that they can spend our money responsibly. There has to be a way to make the state both effective and affordable. Question four, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, while not perfect, is the best solution for our cancerous growth of government.
Mainers trust each other; it’s one of the best things about life here. We know that if we ask for directions, get a flat, or need a hand, our neighbors will be right along to help. We take pride in our communities, and it makes living here special. TABOR allows Mainers to take responsibility for their choices, and use our famous common sense. The only alternative, the way things are now, is letting Augusta arbitrarily decide whether our communities thrive or die.
TABOR is less about how much money is spent, and more about who decides where it goes. Currently, unions and special interests are running ads that claim TABOR would cut vital public services Mainers rely on. These are simply empty threats they use as scare tactics.
TABOR isn’t the ‘cap’ opponents claim, but an extra dose of accountability. It allows Mainers to hold Augusta responsible for how and why they spend our money. It will force the state spend more intelligently. With only a ‘good enough’ policy, Maine has wasted millions on education that doesn’t teach kids, on healthcare that doesn’t keep us healthy, and on public services that only benefit special interests. We deserve better.
By relying on direct democracy and operating under a simple rule, TABOR fosters transparency and fiscal discipline. Augusta must present the amount, purpose, and time in which they want to spend extra funds for citizen approval. If there is a tax surplus, taxpayers can decide what happens to the money. The state is forced to reduce the level of taxation within the limit set by inflation and population growth, automatically restricting government growth to a level chosen by citizens. Who doesn’t want to be more effective and save money?
When programs aren’t working, Augusta’s solution is to spend more money and raise taxes. Bureaucrats said Dirigo would cover 30,000 Mainers, but it only covers a third of that number. When the program proved inefficient and overly expensive, their solution was to tax soda, wine and beer. Maine voted that down, and held Augusta accountable for wasteful spending. This opportunity is what we want to protect with TABOR. It is much better than good enough.
When Mainers go grocery shopping, we don’t just rush into Hannaford’s or Whole Foods with a wad of cash and throw items in a cart until we’re broke. We take our time and bargain shop; we want the best quality and nutrition for our dollar. However, when it comes to state spending, for decades Augusta has thrown everything into the cart. When money runs out they demand more. Is our education or fire department dollar less important than our grocery bill?
Colorado learned that TABOR can help stretch a dollar. In 1992, before TABOR, Colorado was leading the nation in education spending. However, their students’ results hovered below the national average. Since TABOR, Colorado spends less than the average on schooling and their students achieve at a much higher rate. People can argue if Colorado’s education
system is better or worse, but it’s clearly more efficient. They pay less and get more. Maine pays more and gets less.
TABOR opponents want to prevent us from voting on spending increases. They insist rushing wasteful spending through the legislature is the best way for Maine to prosper. It’s not working, because legislators don’t want their constituents to see where the money goes. TABOR is the only way to show Augusta we are paying attention, and care about how the state is operating. Bureaucrats hate TABOR because they know Mainers won’t accept bloated unions and wasteful government any more. Colorado did better than good enough, and so can Maine.