By Sen. Eric Brakey
AUGUSTA – This weekend marks the start of 2023. It’s a New Year for America and for the world. It’s a fresh start, especially here in Maine as a newly elected Legislature takes office. And for many of us who were recently elected, this time of year is a chance of renewed hope and reflection on what Maine’s people expect from us as Legislators – after all, you elected us.
Hello, I am Senator Eric Brakey of Androscoggin County; and it’s my pleasure to join you for our first Republican Radio Address of 2023.
First, I want to thank the voters of my district — the people of Auburn, New Gloucester, Poland, and Durham — for entrusting me to represent them in the State Senate as their voice in Augusta. It is an honor to serve the people of Maine, once again.
Back in 2014, I was elected to my first Senate term as the youngest state senator in America and re-elected in 2016. After a four-year hiatus, I am honored to be back to defend the freedom and paychecks of Maine’s people. I’m sure all of my fellow elected colleagues of both parties respect the responsibility we’ve been given to serve you.
So what does 2023 look like? First, let me give you a bird’s eye view of what has happened.
In looking back at the last year, Maine ratepayers were hit with an 83% rate increase in their electric bills at the start of 2022. If you were a small-to medium-sized business that used the Public Utilities Commission’s Standard Offer, those rates rose as high as 300% before settling down later in the year.
And in what feels like déjà vu all over again, those rates are going up another 45% on average beginning January 1. That is a 165% increase in the price of electricity in just two years.
If you use fuel oil to heat your home, you’ve seen a sudden spike in heating oil prices. Beginning in February 2022, prices began inflating before hitting a peak of $5.92 per gallon in May with high rates persisting until today. In contrast, the price of fuel oil on the day President Joe Biden took office was just $2.27 per gallon – it’s more than doubled since.
And it’s not just energy. A dozen eggs that cost you $1.70 at the beginning of 2022 now costs nearly $5 as this year closes. That’s a whopping 191 percent jump. When you factor in the cost of milk, vegetables, gasoline and even the price of eating out, 2022 will not be remembered as a good vintage by any means.
There are many reasons for rising prices that we must tackle, from the effects of war overseas, restrictions on domestic energy production, supply chain disruptions from lockdown policies that proved to be counterproductive and unnecessary, and the federal government printing trillions of dollars out of thin air and stealing the purchasing power of your paycheck and retirement account with every new dollar they print.
The economic challenges before us are great and big government keeps making things worse; but as we leave a painful 2022 behind and look ahead at what this New Year may bring, I’m reminded of the spirit of Maine’s people. We’ve weathered a lot these past 12 months, and together we can overcome the challenges ahead.
A New Year brings with it the one thing we all look forward to the most – hope.
In 2023, I hope we can restore a constitutional balance to state government.
I hope that all my legislative colleagues work together knowing we are here to represent not partisan or special interests, but the Maine people from every corner of this state.
I hope we can get a handle on our drug and opioid addiction crisis and help those suffering a mental health crisis.
I hope we can end the workforce shortage, getting able-bodied adults back to work and our labor participation rate back to where it should be
I hope we can prioritize pipelines and not pipe dreams to bring affordable energy prices to Maine people.
I hope we can develop affordable housing for all those who need it by engaging the market and respecting property rights.
I hope we can ensure our elderly who need beds in nursing homes can get one.
I hope our students can make up the ground they’ve lost after years of disruptions and unnecessary school closures.
I hope we can rein in the Governor’s emergency powers so Maine’s people can have a voice in the laws that govern us.
I hope we can all return to the way life should be.
Most importantly, I hope 2023 will prove to be a better vintage for everyone than 2022 was.
Again, I’m Senator Eric Brakey of Androscoggin County; and I wish you and yours a safe, happy and prosperous New Year.
Sen. Eric Brakey represents the communities of District 20. He is the Senate Republican Lead for the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee and the State and Local Government Committee.