On June 16, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel offered Our Opinion: “Holding bonds hostage not good for our economy.”

The bond process is not as black and white as MaineToday Media Inc. would lead its readers to think. It’s not surprising, however, editors would prefer to attack Gov. Paul LePage rather than provide information that could educate its audience about how bonds are sold.

It is in the best interest of Mainers to have this information. After all, bonds are loans that taxpayers must pay back — with interest.

The Process

When voters authorize borrowing, they are allowing the governor to sell those bonds at a time he or she deems appropriate. The governor then has up to five years to borrow that money. Most projects in Maine will not be affected by this delay in issuance. To hold off on borrowing bonds for two, three and even four years is not an uncommon decision among Maine’s former governors. As a matter of fact, some of the most recent bonds that have been sold to investors were voted on by Mainers in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

LePage recently signed a financial order to borrow $55 million to support a number of projects, including state highway restructuring and paving, energy and infrastructure upgrades to all Maine Community College campuses, port improvements in Eastport and Searsport. and redevelopment at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Although LePage signed the order, this borrowing was authorized by a prior governor, legislatures and voters in previous years. LePage’s endorsement of these bonds helped to pay for these projects, many of which already had been started.

To imply LePage is defying the will of the people is an egregious overstatement.

While an additional $40 million in bonds are to be sold, characterizing the LePage as holding these bonds “hostage” is a political play on words that MaineToday Media is trying to sell its readers.

The truth is, bonds often are sold in increments. In other words, authorized projects often take years and can be part of multiple bond sales.

What LePage has said quite simply is Maine cannot afford more debt at this time.

Furthermore, he encourages these projects to move forward if the cash can be found within an agency, department or quasi-state institution.

The Real Problem

LePage is doing exactly what he was elected to do: introducing economic reforms this state so desperately needs to get back on track.

Both S&P and Moody’s credit rating agencies have indicated clearly that Maine should address its unaffordable welfare programs, specifically Maine-Care (also known as Medicaid), in order to maintain its solid credit rating.

In 2009, Maine’s per capita Medicaid cost was $1,895 per person vs. the national average of $1,187. Maine’s spending on welfare programs increased by $1 billion during the last decade.

Under former Gov. Angus King, Maine’s safety net expanded exponentially to include people who were not elderly, disabled or children. The original intent of the safety net — to help those who are truly needy — has been lost.

With less federal funding being funneled to Maine today to pay for these programs, taxpayers are expected to pay a much larger portion of the bill than in previous years.

It is difficult for some to accept the changes that LePage is implementing because, in past administrations, wanton spending was the status quo.

The most recently enacted budget, however, is about setting priorities and making structural changes that protect the safety net for Maine’s most vulnerable citizens. The decision to reduce funding must be made to sustain a level of service within the resources that are available. We must live within our means.

As for LePage’s alleged “war on reducing support for people in need,” MaineToday Media fails to mention that, although he is working to rein in the government’s unsustainable spending on its welfare programs, he is at the same time helping to implement policies that will spur job creation.

By focusing on investments in work force training and education and promoting the private sector, he is not cutting support. Rather, he is reducing the number of people in need.

LePage is not a polished politician or politically correct, nor does he intend to be. He is doing something rare among politicians, however; he is challenging the status quo.

Adrienne A. Bennett is director of communications and press secretary to Gov. Paul R. LePage.


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