Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bonds, another view - By Rep. Mike McClellum

Recent political stories have been all over the place. Obamacare, filibusters, debt ceilings and in Maine the governors race, jobs growth and finally paying the hospitals. As I was asked to contribute again to The Windham Eagle, and with all that is happening, I had no problem deciding which direction to take on this article. I wish to focus on this year’s bond process. I recently saw two local articles on the subject, one from each major party. Each had a different view of bonds but both supported the 5 bonds as presented. I did not. I voted no 5 times. In the Maine House, I believe 6 (including me) representatives voted no 5 times. Let me take a few minutes to present to you why I voted the way I did.

The issues to benefit from successful bonds include very important areas in Maine such as our road maintenance/transportation, the State armories and higher education (projects at the University of Maine System, Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy). I believe everyone, including myself, wants Maine to grow and improve. It is essential to have a strong transportation system, strong education opportunities and to support our awesome military. Yet I still voted no. There always seems to be more to the story.

Where do I start with limited space? Passing the State budget and then finding out our transportation needs were not all included? Never hearing anything about the state of our State armories and then after a budget is passed finding out how critical the armory situation is (two armories have been condemned by their communities) and how we simply must bond now? Walking into a republican house caucus meeting the day of the bond votes to discuss our strategy as a group the leadership leads off with "let’s pass some bonds today!"

My frustration comes from seeing that we did not do our best work to prioritize our responsibilities in this budget cycle. I also believe that the roads, education system and armories did not begin to fall apart in the past year. Each is a symbol of long term neglect by our State government. Instead of focusing on these seemingly important issues, we spent considerable time on ensuring all gardens in the State house area are edible, pushing through bills that return again and again, such as raising the minimum wage and attempting to pass laws to overturn all the efforts of the previous (125th Maine Legislature). My experience in Augusta is just three years, but this year we seemed to do nothing through most of our time in session. As the final days approached, we put in longer hours to get work done. As the session ended, we carried over (I am told) 200 bills that we did not get done. I also am told, that is a very large amount compared to other recent years.

In 2013 there was little communication, no outreach on issues and much time was wasted. Our government again did not budget by prioritizing our State needs. But why should we? We in Augusta do not need to make the hard decisions because we know the public will support bonds (borrowing money). 

We in Augusta can submit and spend our time on our own bills because we can always bond (borrowing money) to cover those pesky important things like roads and education. At my house, we need to deal with the mortgage, broken down car, food and those things we think are important first. How fortunate that our Maine Government can borrow money and have fine people like you to pay it back. Do I sound frustrated? It was that kind of year.

Rep. Mike McClellan
Maine House 103
Raymond, Frye Island, parts Poland and Standish

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