Not even a $6.8 billion state budget is enough to insure against unnecessary harm for many whom it purports to serve. Maine’s irrepressible chief executive, Gov. Paul LePage, has again fashioned a spending plan that sounds good politically. What could be harmful about tax cuts, welfare reform and less government?

The answer is plenty — once you conscientiously peel back the pages of a budget, well intended, but in many cases applying extreme approaches to our problems.

The governor remains committed to an unrealistic goal of completely eliminating the state income tax. Maine is a poor state, at the bottom of the totem pole in economic development and extremely limited in revenue available to address the state’s most critical problems. Elimination of the state income tax is therefore totally unrealistic.

The governor’s attempt to switch taxation to the municipal level and property taxpayers, while short-changing cities and towns in the area of revenue sharing, will again fall short of majority support. This formula accomplishes nothing.

Next, the governor attacks “local control.” It remains incredulous that a politician who served his city of Waterville as mayor and councilor decided when he was first elected governor that the state’s municipalities should have much less control over their own destiny. The governor proposes further consolidation of school districts through intimidation by proposing to remove state revenue for our individual school administrative costs.

LePage further intends to shift the responsibility of all teacher contracts to a one-size-fits-all state contract, thus robbing our cities and towns of the right to decide what their teachers will be paid, and what benefits they will receive.

The last thing Maine’s citizens are willing to give up is the historic principal of local control.

The governor’s election and re-election was greatly influenced by the steady drum beat in the media of the public’s belief that Maine had become the state of first choice for welfare seekers. This remains a winning issue for LePage.

When he took office he was right. Abuse and fraud in the state’s welfare system was a concern and stronger regulations with an accent on enforcement was called for. However, consideration for compassion must be part of the march for reform, as Maine transforms from one of the most liberal states for welfare recipients to the stingiest.

We need to question whether new rules being proposed may be too restrictive. Will they put at great risk families unable to support themselves? Will more children go hungry? Attempts to transfer more responsibility for general welfare assistance to our municipalities by big cuts from the state will only exacerbate the situation.

Maine, with a minority of other states, refuses to accept expanded federal funding to support Medicaid, thus leaving many uninsured. New rules proposed by the governor also could make insurance coverage for the 287,000 on Mainecare more difficult.

This column is intended to discuss in general terms the governors’ new budget. Details are being covered in detail elsewhere and are readily available.

It is my hope that in this legislative session, Republicans will oppose their governors’ overreach on tax and welfare reforms. LePage’s challenge to his party’s legislators to “fix their bayonets” and get tough is good theatre, but another example of a personality deficit. The old mantra from the former mayor of Waterville — “my way or the highway” — just doesn’t cut it at the state level. Waterville’s “Front page LePage” will still petulantly veto what he disagrees with.

He certainly is right about the world of hurt that Maine businesses are feeling against nationwide competition. But isn’t it a shame that a “take no prisoners” attitude and lack of willingness to compromise has ruined the governor’s chances for a positive legacy on the issues?

Expect Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, ranking member of the appropriations committee, to be a leading voice of reason on this budget throughout the legislative session.

As a moderate conservative, I am generally in agreement with less government, lower taxes, and help being reserved for those who really need it. But in all things in life, most problems can best be solved with realistic approaches and compromise.

Elimination of tax revenues to support education, and deep cuts in programs intended to protect our most vulnerable, must be questioned. Certainly the loss of local control for our cities and towns is not acceptable. As evidenced in the governors’ extreme budget, a lack of concern for unintended consequences can lead to disastrous results.

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.

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