Time is running out.
Time is running out for the segment of our population that has no job, no income, no savings and desperate family situations.
Time is running out for a Maine economy that relies on a summer tourist season to tide many over during the winter months.
Time is running out for small businesses and the lives of Mainers that depend on them for their income, tax revenues that support our social safety net and the overall health and well-being of a free society.
We understand that we must practice physical distancing, practice health safety measures during gatherings, wear masks if in a confined area where physical distancing is not possible and manage everyday risk.
Mainers learned that, and have acted accordingly. That is why most of Maine has not experienced the high number of hospitalizations other more densely populated areas have.
Mainers are practical, ingenious and intelligent. They are increasingly expressing that they are growing tired of decisions being made on their behalf that are arbitrary and appear to be unrelated to the data we are provided.
Two months into this, we continue to be given either incomplete or irrelevant data that is not connected to the Governor’s dictatorial response.
To date, we have not been given data that other states routinely provide to their citizenry. Data broken down by town, that would allow municipalities and individuals to properly manage our collective risk.
Data continues to be used to promote a lockdown of our economy and, not allow people to apply what we have learned to effectively and safely manage the risk.
Instead, the Governor unilaterally loosens some restrictions after public pressure, but not others.
Most recently, she decided to keep restaurants scheduled to reopen closed in three counties, but will allow them to have outside dining.
Based on what science?
When a Governor picks winners and losers, we all lose.
The biggest losers of all are those who need the government safety net now, in the form of unemployment insurance checks.
Ten weeks into this, I still have constituents who have yet to receive the benefits they were entitled to back in March.
In the first few weeks of this civil emergency, it was understandable. Now it is indefensible.
Now we are being told that “Maine will put unemployment benefits on pause for two days and slow down processing times to address an apparent uptick in fraudulent applications.”
Many of my colleagues have been asking why on earth does the Governor’s Commissioner of Labor still have a job?
That question never makes it past editors of the states largest newspapers when their quotes make it into print.
If the tone of this address sounds angry, it is because I am angry and frustrated that those who have the ability to balance the power between the Executive and the Legislature, as it should be, continue to choose to sit on their hands out of partisanship.
I am angry that our government is failing people at the one time it is supposed to help those who pay taxes and follow the rules.
They are angry and I represent them, just as I represent those who have income or savings and are fine with staying home longer.
They can afford to wait, others can’t.
I am for balancing everyone’s overall health, safety and well-being along with their economic health, safety and well-being. They are not mutually exclusive to each other.
Despite Republicans expressing willingness to work with the Governor on safely reopening Maine, we and other legislators have been shut out of the decision making.
Earlier, the Governor received $1.25 billion for COVID-19 related expenses. It sits largely untouched in an account.
Because the Governor is hoping that the federal government will lift restrictions on how she can spend it.
As the Governor waits for a taxpayer bailout, she is effectively starving the state of sales, income, gas and other tax income.
Who will make up this shortfall when things return to normal?
Yes, I said normal. Some day this civil emergency will end.
Taxpayers will be asked to pick up the tab. We all know that big government proponents never reduce spending.
Just because it is federal money doesn’t mean that it isn’t from taxpayers.
Over 60 small businesses, that we know of, have closed their doors permanently. Others are closed for the 2020 season.
That number is likely much larger and grows day by day.
And big government proponents will have even fewer “wealthy” businesses to tax.
Many more local Maine businesses will close in the coming days as Governor Mills and her enablers, the House Speaker and Senate President, continue to signal that Maine will not reopen this summer and maybe not even this fall.
Time is running out on whether or not we can responsibly act now, to lessen the hardship that will surely follow this pandemic in the months and years to come.
We urge the public to continue to press the Governor and her legislative supporters for a rational reopening of Maine this summer, focusing on proper risk-management and trusting the Maine people.