Mary’s Musings

Fiscal responsibility pays off

Posted:  Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 8:45am

It’s easy to get in financial trouble. Ask thousands of families who have had to struggle on occasion to keep their heads above water. For some, it’s a never-ending battle. It’s not just individuals with financial challenges; cities and states are in the same boat.

Prior to the recent hurricanes, Puerto Rico had major budget problems. What they didn’t need was a hurricane! State after state joins the list of those struggling to make ends meet in an effort to avoid bankruptcy. Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey are fighting to fund their schools, services, and Medicaid programs, not to mention meeting the demands of unfunded pension funds. In New Jersey, the fund has an estimated $40 billion shortfall. It’s easy – often too easy – to avoid funding pensions that aren’t due as yet. When the budget is tight, it’s tempting to postpone putting the needed dollars in pension funds for public employees.  Private companies have found themselves in trouble, too, with no money to pay retired employees the pensions they have earned. Some have simply told their former employees that there’s no money and none will be forthcoming, devastating news for the retiree.

A number of other states are reportedly flirting with disaster, including New York, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, Florida and Kentucky. Whenever we learn of another city, town or state facing a budget shortfall and the possibility of having to shut down services, we realize how lucky we are here on our peninsula and elsewhere in the area that we have responsible government leaders who sharpen their pencils and spend our tax dollars wisely. Over the years we’ve occasionally had a few officials inclined to overspend, but we’re happy to say it hasn’t happened often. Towns can’t provide us with everything we might like, and most taxpayers realize it, accepting the fact that some things are up to us to fund through private means. While we all like to complain about real estate taxes, most of the time we must admit that we’re much better off than those in many other towns and cities.

We’re also fortunate that our state government is following a conservative agenda, thanks to the leadership of Governor Paul LePage, who has stubbornly fought to bring Maine’s budget back in line despite strong opposition on a regular basis.  Trying to balance our budget has meant we can’t afford some of the programs that may be worthwhile but are too costly, and he’s drawn a lot of flak for refusing to support services too rich for Maine taxpayers’ pocketbooks. His latest effort is opposition to expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, coming up for a vote on the November ballot; he says we just plain can’t afford it. He refuses to send us down the same path taken by many states that have overspent and are now in deep trouble. We wholeheartedly agree with this philosophy.

Our local and state governments may not be providing everything we’d like, but if you look around the country, you’ll see that we’re in pretty good shape.