Playing with the cards you’ve been dealt

Senator Matt Pouliot delivers this week’s Republican Radio Address

By Senator Matt Pouliot

AUGUSTA – There’s no doubt the Second Regular Session of Maine’s 130th Legislature has had some tough challenges. From shoring up our nursing and veterans’ homes and mental health services to issues surrounding affordable housing and forever chemicals, we’ve had to address a rollercoaster of various topics.

Sen. Matt Pouliot – Kennebec

Hello, I’m Senator Matt Pouliot of Kennebec County. Instead of talking about those things, however, I’d like to talk about our future.

Most of what the Legislature has been dealing with are things we have some degree of influence over. Yet what’s impacting Mainers across the state right now are things outside our control – they go beyond our borders.

When we factor in the prices at the pump, the cost of heating your home, higher food prices for beef, chicken and other much-needed staples, and even a meal at a restaurant, everything is costing more now than a year ago. In the case of gas and fuel oil, prices have almost doubled from just three months ago. And we’ve all already felt the pain of increased electricity prices since January.

So yes, it seems we’ve been dealt a really bad hand. And this surging inflation rate of nearly eight percent over the past year is the greatest threat to Maine families – it’s no different than a tax hike, and it’s taking more of what you earn.

According to Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, most families typically spend about 77 percent of their entire household income on basic necessities. But rampant out-of-control inflation only increases that figure – it is the most regressive kind of implicit tax that hurts all of us. It leaves no one untouched.

In terms of hard dollars, the University of Penn’s Wharton School estimates that inflation has already impacted household budgets to the tune of $3,500 this past year. According to a recent Bloomberg report, that is likely to rise to $5,200, which unfortunately translates to an extra $433 out of your pocket every month.

And here’s the sneakiest part of all: The more you pay for anything and everything, the more you also pay in taxes. So if you’ve gotten a pay raise this year, you’ve also had a serious pay cut.

Republicans have been sounding the alarm on this for years. With every COVID-19 relief package that passed at the federal level, along with it came the risk that printing money would end up costing you more – sadly, it has. For lawmakers here in Maine, we face the same challenge. With every dollar we spend and every new job we create at the state level, we also contribute to the risk of creating an inflationary government so large that is becomes unsustainable, or at the very least untenable with too high a cost.

However, Maine is at a crossroads and we have the rare opportunity to reverse course.

We’re currently in the process of finalizing Gov. Mills’ supplemental budget request. It’s $1.2 billion. To put that into perspective, the surplus is one-third of our entire annual state budget just two years ago in 2020. We began our “Give it Back” campaign last year when we saw similar excesses, and we’re proposing to do the same with this surplus for all families in Maine.

But the crossroad I mentioned earlier is not about that. It’s not even about today – it’s about tomorrow. We have a stark choice in front of us that has been staring right back at us for almost two years now. It’s a crossroad other states are navigating right now.

The bottom line is do we take the hard road that leads to long-term economic prosperity, one that lets us make the right community investments and puts our tax structure more in line with today’s realities? Or do we take the easy road of keeping money we certainly didn’t earn – you earned it – and grow government that will create even more challenges in the future?

The choice should be crystal clear.

On a final note, the end of a legislative session is usually the most chaotic. It’s the final weeks of finishing a four-month-long legislative process. But it’s also a time when we need to stay focused and stay razor sharp not only on what we do today, but how we impact Maine tomorrow.

Again, this is Senator Matt Pouliot of Kennebec County. Thank you for joining me for this week’s Republican Radio Address, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Senator Matt Pouliot is in his second term in the Maine Senate and represents District 15. He is the Senate Republican Lead for the Taxation Committee.

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