In rural Maine towns, we see every day how hard times have hit our local communities.

Families are struggling, and small businesses have had a rough go of it. Meanwhile, cities and towns in New Hampshire or Massachusetts are starting to emerge from the recession.

Maine was among only a handful of states where the economy actually slid backward last year. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that Maine was the only state in New England whose economy shrunk in 2011 and one of only seven states nationwide.

While I always try to work across the aisle to support compromise, I have had great concerns about the direction our state has taken during the last two years under Republican control.

It has become harder to live and work in Maine, especially in rural areas such as Skowhegan.

We’ve seen one bill after another attacking working people and middle-class families, and not a single one will create jobs or get our economy back on track. Health insurance premiums in Skowhegan have skyrocketed.

Business owners and constituents — Democrats, independents and Republicans — have asked me why their health insurance premiums have risen more than 60 percent since Republicans forced through a bill that made it easier for insurance companies to increase rates with little or no prior review.

I will always side with consumers over insurance companies and corporations driven by profits and greed.

Everyone working and living in Maine knows it gets a little harder every day. The last thing we need is for the state to make it worse.

I continue to work with those who have a vision for making Maine a place where we can all raise a family and prosper.

We know that all Maine businesses need good roads and bridges to move their goods.

Whether it is logs, lumber, wood chips, maple syrup, milk, paper or tourists,, we all need safe roads to keep our businesses open. I say leave the party ideology at the door.<p>Maine people are known for our hard work, grit and determination. In Skowhegan, we’ve seen that drive putting people back to work and supporting our local farmers. Skowhegan is emerging as a model for the nationwide effort supporting local food.

Support for buying and growing local food in our community is helping put more money in the pockets of local folks and local businesses<p>If we want our economy to improve, we need to build more opportunity for our local businesses and communities, not for out-of-state corporations.

That’s why I worked to pass laws, with strong bipartisan support, that will put food grown by local farmers on the menus at our schools and to review ways to reduce obstacles for Maine slaughterhouses to sell their meat.

This “farm and bait to plate” model means healthier food for our children and more dollars back to our communities, farmers and ranchers.<p>When consumers can buy affordable food grown locally, everyone wins. It creates jobs on local farms and bolsters economic growth in rural communities.

We need to continue on a track of working with those who grow our food, process our food, manage our forests and process wood products. We must work in tandem to promote growth and opportunity. We must be thinking of the next generation of natural resource-based jobs.

Maine has more than 50,000 people still looking for jobs and is rated dead last in the country for personal income growth.

Moody’s credit agency downgraded Maine’s credit in part because of unfunded tax cuts that the Republican-led Legislature passed for the very wealthy. Last year, the credit agency warned that “tax changes leading to revenue reductions leave [Maine] vulnerable.”

My Republican colleagues swept into power two years ago on a mandate of job creation and fiscal responsibility, yet little has been done to foster true economic growth. Instead, we’ve seen harmful cuts that simply shift costs to local communities, giveaways to big insurance companies, and tax cuts that primarily benefit those at the very top.

We’ve seen two years of misguided policies for Maine. What we really need is a common-sense policy that helps the true job creators — Maine’s local businesses and farmers.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, is the ranking minority member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

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