Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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Governor Claims Bond Victory

By Mike Brown, Ellsworth American - August 18, 2005 "Another such victory and we are ruined," said King Pyrrhus of Epirus of a battle that cost more than the vanquished. Ye Old King had a large force and some elephants and defeated the Romans in several battles but with massive casualties. Alas, the warrior king was killed in Argos by a falling roofing tile.

Leaping forward from 272 B.C. to 2005 A.D., there stood Maine governor John Baldacci on the greening lawn of a university campus extolling the virtues of an $83-million bond package, implying it was the Democratic majority party of the Legislature and his leadership with a "spirit of collaboration and bipartisanship... that will keep Maine on the path to becoming a national leader in providing opportunities for all its citizens."

There was no mention in Baldacci's stump speech that his original bond recommendation was $197 million. Or that the legislative Republican minority limbed the Governor's cherry tree down to $83 million. Or that the Democrats could take $83 large ones or nothing. Or that the state's three bond raters all have lowered Maine's ratings because of Maine's negative economy and unsupported debt.

With the straight face and eye of King Pyrrhus, Baldacci said jobs and incomes are growing and our tax burden is falling even as a three-quarter-billion structural gap is predicted for the next biennium and a BRAC storm cloud on the horizon may eliminate some 9,000 Maine jobs.

Another such victory for the Baldacci administration and it may be ruined.

The problem for the now-vanquished Republican Party is that is does not call the Democrats to task for their political rhetoric except in infrequent press releases by some hack party staffer. The same old GOP defeatist whining and paranoia will not defeat Baldacci and his administration of big government next year.

Baldacci is too proficient a politician to be beaten by press releases alone.

As of now, the GOP will sally forth with two gubernatorial candidates -- Peter Cianchette and Peter Mills -- to challenge Baldacci. It is no secret that the party hierarchy was not pleased that Mills entered the race almost simultaneously, and unexpectedly, with Cianchette. There are some inferences here.

Obviously, Mills does not believe that Cianchette can beat Baldacci. He may be right, even though Baldacci's poll numbers are lower and the whole matrix of Baldacci governance has failed to gain in legislative majority -- in fact, it has lost seats.

And, of course, Baldacci has once defeated Cianchette. The concept of an incumbent winner defeating a previous loser has ballot legs.

Although early, what else is new in politics? Cianchette has not made much of a splash in the media except for some dog-eared clichés about responsible government and the frustration of Maine people. But Mills may be the most savvy politician the GOP has in its bivouac. His 12 years in the legislature have not been spent in idle attendance but rather separating the mostly political chaff from accountable government wheat.

Just a sample of a Mills government suggests the emergence of credibility over political dogma.

Education. The second-largest business in state government has been testing students in grades 4, 8, and 11 since 1984 and has published learning standards since 1996. Yet not one student has suffered a consequence for failing to perform. Nor has any teacher yet been rewarded for superlative achievement.

Debt. Mills says Maine is teetering on the cliff of insolvency because of promises it cannot keep. This is true, but the GOP election hierarchy does not like hard time talk. Mills says Maine has no future until some $4 billion in existing debt is brought under control.

Medicaid. Mills says as long as Medicaid is free, it will be exploited; as long as it is supplied without condition, it will be less effective to improve health. As for Dirgo Health, which Mills says is a Baldacci mission to provide the maximum number of Maine people with free insurance, it needs complete overhaul.

Duplicate Services. Mills says Maine can no longer afford the luxury of duplicative services. For instance, Maine taxpayers are supporting three separate layers of law enforcement: state police, county sheriffs, and local police. Plus, there are adjunctive agencies for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wardens, marine patrol, corrections officers, and forest wardens. Obviously, with each one, there is a turf battle.

Under the decades of Democratic majority governance in Maine, there has been an erosion of responsible and accountable government and the emergence of partisan-weighted administrations that must be financed by excessive taxes to support bigger and bigger governments. Given that this is the extant situation, Senator Mills' prophecy of state insolvency may not be far off the mark.

In the context of elections, to this point at least, Senator Mills proposes to cut the fat goose flock numbers, while Governor Baldacci would merely politically pluck the fat goose flock to obtain the largest possible amount of tax feathers with the least amount of barnyard hissing.