The Morning Sentinel has done a great disservice to its readers with its coverage of the governor’s proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Almost daily, there have been dire stories documenting what may happen if the cuts are enacted. Yes, money will be reduced, services and eligibility will have to be entailed, and many will be adversely affected.

Nobody wants this to happen. Even the governor has acknowledged the negative effects that will occur. What is sadly lacking, however, is the financial dimension: If we cannot afford to cut these programs, how then do we afford paying for them?

All parties have recognized the $220 million shortfall as a real number. That is not a gap; that is a chasm. Unlike the federal government, the state of Maine cannot print money; it actually has to pay for these services.

Some have said roll back tax breaks for the wealthy. That line may play well on the national stage, but Maine is a poor state; few wealthy people live here to pick up the tab.

Just to put this in context, according to the Morning Sentinel, about 445,000 tax returns last year had a state tax liability. If the deficit is divided by the number of available taxpayers, we get almost $500 per tax return. Most would agree that is a significant sum, and it is not just for one year but every year.

What about program modifications? The Morning Sentinel made oblique references to possible successful initiatives in North Carolina and New York in a recent editorial, but no specifics were offered. If we are going to get serious about solving this problem, we cannot just say “no.” We need alternatives grounded in financial reality.

Scott Jones


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