If you wanted a legislative session to clearly spell out the differences between Republicans and Democrats, this would have been a good one to choose. All session long, it’s been as if Maine Democrats have been on a mission to confirm the characterization of them by conservatives as big-government tax and spenders. So far, they’ve mainly been restrained not by Republicans – who barely have the numbers to have input on the budget, let alone ordinary legislation – but by Gov. Mills, who knows she needs votes from all over the state to win re-election in 2022.

Mills isn’t so moderate that she frequently bucked her own party, however. She issued only a few vetoes this session, and none of them was overridden – her party stayed firmly behind her, unlike in years past when legislative Republicans frequently teamed up with Democrats to override then-Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes. While it was nice to see Mills sometimes rein in the radicals in her own party, it hasn’t happened nearly often enough to keep the state from taking a sharp turn to the left.

Democrats went on a banning binge this session, dramatically expanding the role of government in our lives for both adults and children all over the state. They outlawed single-use plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, balloon releases, Indian mascots at schools, and the use of handheld devices while driving. All of these bills applied to adults, and many of them had been stymied for years when we had a governor who believed in individual liberty and personal responsibility – but those days are gone.

Instead, we now have a governor who’s willing to go along with the expansion of the nanny state. Democrats in Augusta seem to think not only that they need to micromanage the daily lives of adults, but also that they know better how to raise kids than parents themselves. They also banned vaping in schools and the underage use of tanning salons – both issues best left to local school districts and parents to enforce, but apparently Democrats don’t trust them to do their job. Apparently they don’t trust any of us to live our own lives as responsible adults.

Not only are these regulations all a completely unnecessary intrusion on our liberty in what is supposed to be a free country, they could have unintended effects. As just one example, take the ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. These bags are incredibly convenient for consumers, especially for people who shop alone and/or walk to the store. Even if they have handles, paper bags are likely to break and aren’t reliable in bad weather. The cloth reusable bags are sturdy and have handles, but they also cost money. Essentially, the plastic-bag ban makes life either more inconvenient or more expensive for lots of people, many of whom can ill afford either one.

Democrats haven’t only encroached on the liberty of individuals, they’ve also gone on a spending spree that will put our state in a precarious fiscal position for years (if not decades) to come. Although Gov. Mills’ desire to spend more than $8 billion this biennium was somewhat reined in during negotiations, the budget that was passed is still a reckless, irresponsible one. It’s balanced and doesn’t have any major tax increases, but that’s possible only thanks to the fiscal responsibility of LePage, who left the budget and the state economy in excellent shape.


So, while Mills’ budget works for now, if the slightest economic downturn comes along, some very difficult decisions will have to be made. Although Mills promised not to raise taxes, she may well have to abandon that pledge at some point if she wants to keep spending all this money forever. That’s the problem with increasing spending so much now: It creates a new baseline level of funding for programs in the future, and it’s even harder politically to cut funding or raise taxes in a recession than it is when the economy is healthy.

Because of its high tax burden, Maine has never done well with economic freedom, but we made some progress at least when Republicans had the majority. Now, we’re taking major steps backward in both economic freedom and individual liberties – and that’s after just one session of full Democratic control. None of this should be a surprise: Elections have consequences, and they got what they voted for. Hopefully soon, voters will decide they want a return to balance, rather than giving Democrats free rein to run our lives.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel

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