Sen. Rodney Whittemore’s recent column took my breath away — and not in a good way. The public is used to seeing Republican revisionist history, but this piece demonstrated how out of touch some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have become.

Tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy were the crowning achievement of the previous, Republican-led Legislature. That is, if you think contributing to a significant portion of a state budget shortfall and property tax increases are good things.

In the 125th Legislature of 2010-2012, Republicans ordered a tax break largely for the wealthy without knowing how they were going to pay for it. Faced with the consequences of their actions, they tried to pass the tab on to Maine’s middle-class and small businesses by shifting costs to local communities.

This misguided approach fails Maine’s working families and middle class, especially when Maine continues to lag in job creation. Maine has been trapped at the back of the pack, recovering only about half of its jobs lost in the recession. The nation has recovered about 95 percent of its jobs. New England as a region has regained all of them and added even more jobs on top of that.

We know Maine people are struggling. The employment level of Mainers of prime working age has not improved since the recession. We’re losing manufacturing jobs. We have the nation’s second-worst income growth. The number of young children growing up poor has increased to one in four. More kids are homeless.

We need policies that lift Maine people: honest wages, educational opportunity, tax fairness, workforce development and smart investments in our future. These are the kinds of measures that truly improve the lives of our families, friends and neighbors.

The 126th Legislature considered many proposals to hold up the ladder of opportunity for Maine people. I’m proud of our collaboration with Republican leaders. We did the best we could in a divided government.

Unlike Whittemore, many of our Republican colleagues at times broke ranks with Gov. Paul LePage to support good policy. Whittemore failed, for example, to join his Republican colleagues on veto overrides of a bond proposal to spur job creation by small businesses, a bill to help children with autism access critical care and a measure to feed hungry students during summer vacation.

Too many times, too many Republicans fell in line with the governor to quash meaningful measures for the middle class and working Mainers. Too many times they pushed for policies they knew were not enforceable or would push struggling families, including ones fleeing domestic violence, further into crisis. They even tried to eliminate the successful Parents as Scholars program that has helped Maine families climb out of poverty. Fortunately, the public outcry was so intense in that case that they recognized they had to abandon that effort.

It was part of their determined effort to distract folks from the governor’s sorry performance on job creation. When they had the chance to pass a common-sense measure to comprehensively prevent fraud in Department of Health and Human Services programs, they punted and sustained the governor’s veto.

I offered a compromise amendment to a governor’s bill on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. I agree that these funds should be used for food, rent and heat, not for alcohol or cigarettes. Where we parted ways was whether we should treat first-time violators as criminals. Now, Whittemore is taking my words from a floor debate out context to advance a dubious agenda.

I own those words: “This is a victimless crime except for the concern around taxpayer dollars.” And even though Whittemore apparently disagrees, I don’t think the first misuse of an EBT card should be treated the same way as drunken drivers who pose a threat to the property and lives of Mainers. I think most Mainers agree with me.

I promise that if I continue to have honor of representing our community in the Legislature, I will fight against phony “reforms” that do nothing to combat fraud and abuse and will advocate for real policies that improve the lives of Mainers. Our state deserves no less.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, is the assistant House majority leader.


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