State of the State: We’re solving the wrong problem


By Sen. Jeff Timberlake

AUGUSTA – On Thursday, Governor Mills presented her State of the State Address to the people of Maine. It was a chance for her to recognize that Mainers are going through unprecedented difficulties in unparalleled times, much of which unfortunately has to do with the Administration’s policies.

Instead, the picture Governor Mills painted was a rosy one. It was, of course, her perspective and that is probably the biggest problem.

Hello, I am Senator Jeff Timberlake of Androscoggin County and the Senate Republican Leader, and it’s my pleasure to join you for this week’s Republican radio address.

If you were to take Gov. Mills’ remarks as a whole, she seemed to not have a grasp of what is happening across our state, nor the struggles being endured by everyday Mainers.

When it comes to just living here in Maine, it is much harder now than just a year ago.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. It’s the stories of Mainers across the state that I want to share. The hardships many are experiencing are due to policies that have been largely in place for the past two years. The difficulties that have become even more so because of how this current administration is running our government.

We’ve heard from a single mother of three who can’t afford to purchase wood to heat her home.

We’ve heard from those who are unemployed still being unable to reach anyone at the Department of Labor for help, even for something as simple as to reset a password.

We’ve heard from those who were forced out of work due to COVID-19 restrictions two years ago and are still unable to get their benefits.

Why, after two years of this, are these issues still a problem for that department?

We’ve also heard about Mainers who can’t see loved ones in the hospital or our beloved elderly relatives in nursing homes. No one should die alone, and family members should never have to live without the chance to say goodbye.

We also hear about elderly residents who can’t see their spouses because the only nursing home with availability is too far away to visit. Both are left lonesome from the other.

Or the mother who went in for a sonogram and, upon getting devastating news, had to undergo a procedure without the benefit of even having her partner there alongside her to endure it.

Or the record number of suicides and drug overdoses and mental health emergencies last year. Gov. Mills didn’t address any of that – maybe she didn’t want to admit that two years of policies that promoted isolation and the loss of hope contributed to that.

And just how the death of 25 children under the care of DHHS happened. Regardless of how we beef up the Child Welfare Services Ombudsman, it won’t matter if we don’t address the lack of transparency in that department.

We’ve heard from homeowners and businesses alike who are struggling with their electric bills in January. For homeowners, those generation rates went up 80 percent. For businesses, they went up a shocking 300 percent putting businesses at a renewed risk of closure.

And speaking of businesses, we’re hearing they still can’t get straight COVID guidance and, for many, unemployment tax rates have risen by 6 percent. So much for the Governor’s claim that she hasn’t raised taxes.

And why is it that they can’t find workers when Maine’s unemployment rate ranks 33rd in the nation, is fourth highest in New England and is 80 percent higher than our neighbor to the south? That doesn’t square up either.

And finally, where is the final accounting for the nearly 15 billion dollars of federal money that has been given to this state?

It’s nice to view the situation here in Maine through the lens of rose-colored glasses – that’s what Governor Mills cleverly accomplished in her address. But that’s not reality. Here’s what is:

Republicans have been at the forefront of giving excess revenue back to taxpayers. We fought for it last year, and we’re glad the Governor listened again for her expected supplemental budget. But she’s solving the wrong problem.

We need to reform our tax structure, from income to sales taxes so that you get to keep more for you and your family. That will make Maine more competitive with not just New England, but the rest of the country.

We also need to reduce our spending and adjust for inflation to match tax cuts, or future generations will be saddled with the unsustainable financial cliffs that we’re creating today.

We need to lift the shrouds and make transparency a mantra across all government agencies to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse and, most importantly, incompetence.

And finally, we need to reform how we deliver affordable health care in Maine. There are hospitals and health care systems in Maine that are still not complying with the Hospital Price Transparency rule that was put in place last year. If we want to reduce healthcare costs in Maine, transparent pricing is key.

Again, I’m Senator Jeff Timberlake of Androscoggin County. Have a great weekend.Sen. Timberlake is the Senate Republican Leader, a member of the Legislative Council and a member of the Government Oversight Committee.

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