State of the State: Rhetoric Doesn’t Match Reality
Top Democratic leaders challenged Governor Paul LePage to back up his words with action following his State of the State speech which Democrats said was more rhetoric than reality.
LePage outlined his proposals for Maine’s economy, energy and education systems.
“We need to look beyond what the governor says and look at what he does. For the last two years, his administration has not strengthened our economy or grown our middle class,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond. “We need to grow our economy so that Mainers can work their way into the middle-class, not get pushed out.”
According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy report issued on January 19, 2013, there are 51,400 unemployed Mainers–up by 1,600 from one year ago. Maine ranks last among the 50 states for personal income growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
“The Governor’s rhetoric doesn’t match reality and won’t get results,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “When it comes to energy solutions, Maine must continue a bipartisan and comprehensive energy strategy that will put more money in the pockets of Maine people while creating jobs.”
According to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Maine has the lowest electricity rates in New England. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that in 2011, half of Maine’s net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, with 25 percent from hydroelectricity, 21 percent from wood, and 4.5 percent from wind.
LePage attacked Maine schools, claiming students are not proficient readers, and are not prepared for college or the workforce. He accused public school administrators of being in denial, and praised charter schools.
Scores from the latest New England Common Assessment Program tests, taken in October 2012, show that 71 percent of students are proficient in reading, and that Maine is 11th in the nation for reading and math performance. A 2009 study from Stanford University found that only 17 percent of charter schools provided a better education than traditional schools.
“The governor must back up his words with actions,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook. “He believes public taxpayer money should support for-profit, schools, not public education. Democrats hold up the ladder of opportunity for everyone, while the governor pays lip service to increasing educational opportunity.”
The number of children in poverty has increased since LePage took office. According to Kids Count, almost 50 percent of children receive subsidized lunch, 11,000 more children received food stamps in 2012 than in 2011, and nearly 20 percent of Maine children are in poverty.
“While we can all agree that we must put our kids first and help struggling families, that’s not what the governor’s policies are doing,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “We have more families and children living in poverty now than before he took office. We have lost more jobs on his watch.”
Myths & Facts
Myth: LePage’s claim, “My predecessor left no plan to pay them [hospitals], just IOU’s.”
Fact: Democrats led the change to prevent debt accrual by implementing a “pay as you go” system. The change was fully implemented in 2010. Maine has been steadily and increasingly paying down hospital debt for the past decade. Maine has already paid back more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the past decade. From fiscal year 2005-2010, the combined state and federal settlement payments to hospitals totaled $742 million, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review. Under the LePage Administration, in fiscal year 2011-2013, hospitals will recoup $274.9 million in state and federal dollars.
Myth: LePage claim, “We provided Mainers the largest tax cut in history.”
Fact: According to the Maine Municipal Association, LePage’s tax cut is the largest tax shift in history–a $400 million tax shift. Of the $400 million tax cuts, $360 million were not paid for. The budget challenges faced by the 126th Legislature is in large part because of the unfunded tax breaks.
Myth: Maine’s energy costs are too high and it’s killing economic opportunity
Fact: Maine has the lowest electricity rates in New England, according to the Maine PUC. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that in 2011, half of Maine’s net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, with 25 percent from hydroelectricity, 21 percent from wood, and 4.5 percent from wind.
Myth: School choice benefits each and every Maine Student
Fact: According to a 2009 study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, only 17 percent of charter schools provided a better education than traditional schools, and 37 percent actually offered children a worse education.