Read the full report | A recent Market Decisions’ public opinion poll noted that some 86 percent of Maine people believe that taxes are too high, and that 80 percent state that increasing taxes and fees must not be an option to eliminate the current $225 million budget shortfall. Maine voters realize that this budget gap exists because spending is too high; not because taxes are too low.
Maine has an opportunity to lead by advancing real changes in costly programs to maintain a government which still provides a safety net for the poor, elderly and disabled. This involves making changes that create a government the people of Maine can afford. Here are seven reasonable recommendations:
$96.6 Million Maine State Employment is nearly 23 percent higher than the U.S. average. Eliminating vacant positions, a hiring freeze and attrition could reduce the state bureaucracy by 1,588 positions without any layoffs.
$53.5 Million Medicaid A fifth of Maine people are on Medicaid (274,000), 50 percent higher than the U.S. average. Maine provides free health coverage to a married couple with three children earning as much as $51,000, which is three times the national average. At the same time an elderly couple earning over $14,000 doesn’t qualify for Medicaid. Creating average Medicaid eligibility for non-disabled adults would focus limited resources on the poor, elderly and disabled.
$31.0 Million State Employee Insurance Only 8 percent of the employees of the largest companies in America receive no-cost health coverage, yet Maine taxpayers provide state employees with free coverage. Moderate costsharing by state employees will provide health benefits that mirror the coverage Maine employees at large companies receive.
$14.0 Million Maine Higher Education 82.1 percent of the employees in state colleges are non-instructional jobs, which leads the nation by a wide margin (second is Nebraska, with 77.3 percent, with the U.S. average at 66.7 percent). Maine also operates 15 separate campuses that serve 30,611 full-time equivalent students, roughly 2,000 per campus. Greater efficiencies will cut costs and keep tuition affordable.
$12.5 Million Average K-12 Pupil/Teacher Ratio in Maine is the nation’s third-smallest, at 11.9 students. Adopting Governor Baldacci’s recommendation to keep elementary class size the same, add an average of one child per middle school classroom and two students to each high school classroom and will still keep Maine below the national average.
$ 6.0 Million Welfare payments in Maine are above the national average and have no lifetime limits. Maine taxpayers will be the beneficiaries if the state payments are closer to the national average, and if Maine joins the other 42 states with lifetime limits.
$ 3.0 Million Legislative expenditures in Maine have risen 47 percent since 2000. Returning to FY 2005 levels will show that the legislature is a good steward of Maine taxpayers’ dollars.
$216.6 Million Is A Good Start! There are many other areas where Maine’s taxpayers spend more than other states, but these seven recommendations can help close the budget gap, still provide a safety net to the poor, elderly and disabled and not raise taxes.