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Reisman: Midsummer Nightmare

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August rolled in and although the garden looks good, I cannot say the same for Maine, the Republic or freedom.

Thanks to drought defying irrigation, a cornucopia of lettuce, kale, cukes, zucchini and green beans has poured forth. A wall of pumpkins is climbing the fence, joined by butternut squash. A fall harvest of leeks and carrots looks promising, and second plantings of snap peas and green beans should grace October. Deer tracks surround the garden fence, and the squash and beans that escape through the fence pay “deerly” for it. My wife’s retirement has led to a beautifully coiffed and weeded vegetable and flower garden.

The Revenue Forecasting committee has predicted a half billion dollar budget deficit. Depending on the size of undetermined federal bailouts of state and local governments (financed by printing money) and the unknown performance and sustainability of Maine’s remaining economy, that deficit could be smaller by half or twice as big.

Gov. Mills has ordered departments to bring forth 10% across the board spending cut proposals, which will not be enough in any case. The leftist Maine Center for Economic Policy has called for taxing the rich. That also will not be enough, unless you define rich as any household with income above $75,000, and even then, somehow prevent the “rich” from decamping to New Hampshire or Florida.

If you cut state spending on K-12 education (one of the largest items in the budget), that will just send local property taxes up, especially with K-12 systems already increasing expenditures due to covid and distance learning. Federal CARES act funds will allay most, but not all, of those costs.

If you cut the subsidies to the University and Community College systems, tuition increases and layoffs are inevitable; layoffs may be unavoidable in any case given the financial hemorrhage last spring’s campus evacuations and conversion to distance learning engendered.

After all the bashing of former Gov. LePage and “heartless” conservatives, cuts to Medicaid and human services are just non-starters for Gov. Mills, Speaker Gideon and their allies. I foresee a return to the bad old days of unpaid hospital (and other) debts as an extraconstitutional evasion of the requirement for a balanced budget.

Since it is the liberals in charge (again), the press will not say much if anything about it. It took eight years of fiscal discipline for LePage to fix Maine’s financial foundation and structure; it has taken Gov. Mills less than two years to burn it all down.

Much can change between now and Nov 3. The things that will not change are Trump’s personality and divisive instincts, and Biden’s’ cognitive impairment and consistent policy wrongheadedness. Half the nation is poised to reject the winner. This fall promises to be simply awful, full of lies, calumny and fear. The Republic and freedom will be the casualties.

About Jonathan Reisman

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. He speaks for himself.

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