Have you noticed that extremism never solves anything? If only common-sense, logic and middle ground reached through reasonable compromise were applied, then the end result could be dramatically positive.

This rule applies at all levels of government, as illustrated by the current session of our Maine state Legislature. Let’s look at some examples.

I believe that Gov. Paul LePage has taken an extreme position on the question of accepting federal funds available to Maine and other states for Medicaid. LePage, buoyed by the support of those who agree with him about the need for welfare reform, rejects the money, while other states accept it. Those who disagree with the governor’s position point out the potentially devastating effect on the most vulnerable among us, thousands of whom will be left without health insurance. Contrary to LePage’s position, I believe the common-sense solution is to accept the federal funds already earmarked for Maine, therefore protecting our most needy citizens.

Better enforcement of our welfare laws is one thing, but maintenance of a safety net is essential to survival of many Maine residents. Denial of these funds will not save money in the quest for reduction of welfare costs, and the result would be escalation of costs in our hospitals’ emergency rooms.

I also believe LePage has taken an extreme position, rather than a reasonable one, in his attempt to eliminate all state revenue sharing to the cities and towns that help create those tax revenues. Fortunately, it appears that the Legislature does not agree with the charge that many municipalities make no attempt to reduce their budgets and property taxes. Speaking from personal experience, and based on much factual statistical evidence, that charge is just not true. The obvious result of elimination or continued severe reductions in state revenue sharing would be catastrophic to the property tax rates in our cities and towns. The decades-old agreement of partnership on taxes between state and municipal governments must not be broken. Revenue sharing is a common-sense approach.

Deviating from fiscal issues, but in keeping with the theme of this column, I’d like to discuss another legislative issue that seems to present a middle-ground, common-sense solution. That issue is a recurring one — the right to bear arms. Before the Legislature again is a bill that would allow any Maine resident — without background check or police permit — the right to carry a concealed weapon. The extreme position here is that the Constitution may give that right. The common-sense solution would seem to be that if people want to carry a concealed weapon, then they should have to qualify with local law enforcement so that both they and their weapons are registered. What is wrong with that?

Convicted felons, and any others deemed to be dangerous to society, should be barred from carrying concealed weapons. For all others, registration, in the event a crime involving a weapon is committed, will tell police where to find the weapon’s owner. Common sense says people should register concealed weapons.

As we look at different issues, we find many that could serve as examples of the need to find practical, common-sense solutions instead of undesirable extreme, ones.

One of the things that we should not do is attack any of our political leaders for their courage to follow their principles and to represent what they believe to be the view of their constituents.

My case in point are the remarks made by Republican House Minority Leader, Ken Fredette, of Newport, who assailed his fellow Republican, Sen. Roger Katz, of Augusta, for “not being a team player.” Fredette was referring to Katz’s rebuke of the governor for withholding conservation bond funds already approved in referendum.

My support for Katz in this issue doesn’t mean I support his views all the time. Last week, in fact, I disagreed with him on a couple of issues: softened enforcement for heroin and methamphetamine possession and his position on so-called “assisted death.”

But that doesn’t mean I think that he should toe the line at all times with his political party. I believe people elect Katz (overwhelmingly) exactly because of his independence of thought and belief in representing his full constituency.

Katz is the kind of political leader that the voters are looking for. He provides an example of searching for common-sense, reasonable, compromise solutions to the state’s problems, and stands up for his beliefs when he believes LePage’s actions are too extreme.

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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