Aug. 6 and 7 marked the 74th commemoration of the detonation of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we reflect on the the more than 200,000 civilians who died and a world changed forever, it’s as important as ever today that we make every effort to hamper all attempts to escalate proliferation of nuclear weapons.

My entry into Maine politics was at my mother’s side in the 1980s as she rallied against nuclear energy. As both a state legislator from Portland and a father today, my first priority is to protect Maine’s children and all other residents. This solemn anniversary should remind us that no one in Maine or anywhere else in the world should ever again suffer the horrors of a nuclear detonation. Even a limited number of nuclear weapon detonations could have a worldwide impact. While conventional wisdom suggests such action is not imminent, in an uncertain world full of saber-rattling leaders, there are no absolutes.

With nearly 4,000 warheads in the U.S. stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists, including 1,400 that are currently deployed, we have more than enough nuclear weapons to credibly deter nuclear attacks against the United States and our allies. Building new, more usable nuclear weapons is wasting our tax dollars. Further, nuclear weapons don’t confront today’s most pressing national security threats – including cyberattacks, terrorism and climate change.

Mainers are frugal, practical people. It may surprise many that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. spends over $4 million every hour of every day on nuclear weapons, and the planned expenditure of more than $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years to rebuild and operate the arsenal will exacerbate nuclear dangers by fueling a global arms race.

The costs to taxpayers are staggering. In 2017, Maine taxpayers paid an estimated $257 million, with Portland residents paying nearly $13 million in 2017 federal taxes toward the cost of producing, deploying and maintaining nuclear weapons, diverting crucial resources needed to ensure the well-being of Maine people.

Historically, both U.S. political parties’ presidents have worked to reduce the number of nuclear weapons (Republican presidents historically have reduced the most). Maine can send a message in a couple of ways.

First, Maine state legislators have an opportunity to use their voices, by signing a “Dear Colleague” letter I am circulating within the Legislature. It encourages our congressional delegation to support the steps outlined in the “Back from the Brink” resolution recently passed by the city of Portland, which discusses reducing the threats of nuclear weapons and wasteful spending.

Second, companion bills in Congress (H.R. 921 and S.272) address one of the policy prescriptions – the need for the United States to establish a nuclear “no first use” policy. The idea is simple and sensible: The U.S. would never use nuclear weapons first and would launch them only if we or one of our allies were under attack with nuclear weapons. A policy of “no first use” would signal that the U.S. needs nuclear weapons only for defense – meaning we would need fewer of them, thus saving tax money that could be better used for other important needs.

Congress should work, as it has in the past, to reduce the threat that nuclear weapons pose to all Americans. These bills are critical to bringing Maine and the U.S. closer to what we all want: a more secure place to live and raise children. I urge Maine’s congressional delegation to lead this effort.

We have many great unmet needs in our nation, and it is not a pragmatic way forward to plunder our tax revenue on another failed arms race. Let us be a nation that retains the wisdom President Ronald Reagan possessed when he signed a nuclear disarmament treaty close to 32 years ago.

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