Sunday, July 24, 2005


California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey started their fiscal year without budget packages. The Minnesota government actually closed down – 9,000 employees lost paychecks. New York faces problems but it averted a crisis. In that context, poor Maine isn’t doing all that bad.

Augusta might have a handle on a $1.2 billion King administration structural budget deficit. – but it still looks to borrowing before saving. Can we fault Augusta for that insanity? Only if we don’t look.

Look at Washington – they erased $150 billion surplus and brought an end to balanced budgets; now we see them cheer a $333 billion deficit – they expected it to be $100 billion higher. By the end of the Bush term, the national debt, which took 230 years to amass, will have doubled in eight years.

How does Maine handle a $200 million gap (3.5% of budget)? It proposes options. The same gap in Minnesota (0.6% of budget) resulted in the state closing down – Maine, by comparison, has competent leadership.

“I’m always positive when I’m being negative.” If I believe something is wrong, it’s because the facts are such as to make that the only possibility. The facts are arguing that Maine should adopt zero base budgeting as a means to cut waste and redeploy assets.

Per NCLB, I question the wisdom of bowing to unfunded, and paretically funded mandates. We need to examine our budgetary logic – like, “do we want programs tied to federal matching funds?” Do we gain more than the cost of the program?

Are NCLB testing mandates superior to our own program? Bush cut NCLB funding – that implies he doesn’t see enough value in his own initiative to justify funding, even it at previous inadequate levels.

If we’d spend the money anyway, the expenditure is not an issue – federal funds are a bonus; but why spend money on something which doesn’t fit our needs, or duplicates something we already do right?

Both individuals and Governments fall into one of three categories: poor, want-a-be-poor, or well-off; the “well-off” often have fiscal philosophies evidencing “want-a-be-poor”objectives.

The “want-a-be-poor” are the interesting group. They seek the appearance of status; by the practice of deficit spending; and both figuratively and factually, gamble with food money. On the other hand, the “well-off” are frugal, getting value for every cent.

The “want-a-be-poor” borrow for the appearance of substance. The “well-off”, regardless of how little they actually have, focus on paying cash for substances – quietly becoming rich (very well-off).

I recently read of Tibetan nomads who proudly carry a cell-phone – with neither reception, nor anyone to call – a costly and empty status symbol. Maine cannot afford “status”– not if it hurts its people.

The state budget problems appear to emerge from the collusion of two forces, “matching funds” which caused us to spend on non-essentials, and a failure to focus on essentials – we are population rooted in a network of small communities with common needs, we should pool resources for common essentials.

Next week: Walking Eagle.– but this week, on Thursday, the 28th, the Machias Congregational Church is out for blood. From Noon to 5 PM, you get a chance to save a life – now is a shot at real status.

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