The Brookings Institution in 2006 published “Charting Maine’s Future: An Action Plan for Promoting Sustainable Prosperity and Quality of Place.” Gov. John Baldacci hailed the plan as a “blueprint for Maine’s future.” Copies of the beautifully illustrated document were placed in the hands of every legislator. Maine’s media treated it respectfully. The Maine Heritage Policy Center studied it skeptically and offered a number of criticisms.
The response to its publication was understandable.
Brookings is the oldest and best of the liberal think tanks. The study cost a lot of money. It was discussed at nine public meetings held throughout the state, from Alfred to Houlton to Eastport. Representatives from 20 state departments and agencies contributed to its compilation. Dozens of academics and advocates from nonprofit organizations poured their knowledge and wisdom into the effort. Angus King spoke about Maine’s future with his customary glibness.
And then the report seems to have sunk without a trace. I’ve been told by veteran legislators that they haven’t heard a single reference to it in years. Newspaper editorialists, columnists and reporters seem to have lost interest, and perhaps even the memory of its existence. Newcomers to journalism have probably never heard about it.
Mike Michaud’s newly revealed economic plan (www.michaud2014.com/mainemade) led me to take the dusty document off my book shelves and take another look. I found Michaud’s plan uses some of the ideas proposed in “Charting Maine’s Future” and some of its favorite phrases, although its endnotes section makes no mention of the Brookings effort. Perhaps Michaud also had forgotten its existence. Or, perhaps his staff noticed that it contains some proposals with which Democrats are uncomfortable.
The report concluded that Maine’s government had become so bloated that “Administrationland” described it better than “Vacationland.” It argued that our education expenditures were excessive in relation to their results. It flatly states that “Maine must slim and restructure its at-times inefficient state-local government system.”
All of these criticisms relate to our taxation system, about which the Brookings savants have this to say: “Few tax-system features send more prominent signals about a state’s business climate or hospitality to migrants than the state’s top income tax rate.”
Assuming that Michaud has even heard of this “blueprint for Maine’s future,” we can see why he would not want to draw attention to it. It advocated many measures that Gov. Paul LePage has worked to implement in the face of raging Democratic criticism.
Crystal Canney, Eliot Cutler’s communications director, had this to say about Michaud’s road map to the Blaine House: “Mike’s approach is a typical Washington, D.C., big-government, big-spending approach with lots of new programs and millions of dollars in new spending. Under Michaud, the spending spigot will be full on, especially for the special interest groups lobbying Maine’s Legislature.”
Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s director of communications and press secretary, likely would have said something similar.
I haven’t had a chance to speak with either spokeswoman, so I have to guess what they are thinking about Michaud’s plans to build a “Maine Domestic Trade Center,” a “Maine Ocean Energy Center of Excellence” and establish the “Maine Tourism Training Initiative.” These, of course, are mere trifles compared to his grand vision for making the sophomore year in Maine universities free, establishing universal pre-kindergarten, and creating a grant program for year-round learning at community colleges.
We can also look forward to 10-year grants for small business development, programs for energy efficiency, weatherization, land conservation and startup business investments. He also will build a private network of local food hubs, conserve farmland and working waterfronts, create a “Maine Institutional Buying Program,” double the amount of private investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, require all new homes to receive an energy rating and invest in tidal, offshore and wave resources. He also plans to increase solar power and access to natural gas. And on his sixth day, he will fix up roads and bridges.
The most breathtaking part of this plan is his assurance that it will no involve tax increases. In fact, the middle class can look forward to tax relief. His spokeswoman, Lizzy Reinholt, assures that the plan would be funded within current spending.
And after all this is done, my readers are invited to my coronation as King of Albania. Really.
John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com. Email: [email protected]