It’s time to get state finances out of the red.
There’s been lots of talk about accomplishing that by consolidating schools and jails and having state employees shower together. But those are minor moves. The place to start is at the top.
Consolidate the governor.
I don’t think it’s asking too much of Democrat John Baldacci to require him to get along with one lung, one kidney, a single eyeball, half his teeth, and a lonesome testicle. (Proposals to perform that last procedure on legislative leadership wouldn’t work, since collectively, they don’t seem to have even one.)
It’s not as if I’m proposing chopping off the governor’s leg or head or something. At least, not right now. Of course, if recession looms, additional surgery might be required. I’ll keep the chainsaw handy, just in case.
Baldacci is also going to have to take a hit with regard to his first name. Maine can’t afford the luxury of that silent “h,” when Jon works just as well. And it’s only fair for his last name absorb some of the cutbacks, as well.
From now on, he’s Jon Baldi.
More economical. And it even sounds kind of cool.
Baldi no longer lives in the Blaine House. It’s either Blane or Blain. His choice. The state House of Representatives is now the Shack of Reps. Or maybe the Asylum. Unless the Maine Senate wants that one. Finance czar Rebecca Wyke is downsized to Becky Wyk. Gubernatorial flack David Farmer will be dirt cheap once he’s known as Dave Farm. Jack Cashman, the guv’s hatchet man, gets chopped to Jak Cash. And future state of the state addresses will only be allowed one "state."
Symbolic? Not entirely. Losing that lung has got to hurt. At least Baldi will have plenty of company to share his pain. He can commiserate with poor people without health insurance, mental-health patients, folks with HIV/AIDS, kids, and the elderly, all of whom took major hits in his supplemental budget. And all of whom can expect further injury if the state’s fiscal health doesn’t improve.
Or even if it does.
According to a published report about a speech given on January 14 in Augusta by Richard Silkman, vice-president of a think tank called the Maine Public Spending Research Group, in the next seven years, the state needs to cut $467 million from Medicaid and $220 million from education if it wants to reduce its tax burden to something approaching the national average. Baldi — back when he was Baldacci — pledged to set the state on a course that would accomplish that by 2015. So far, he’s made moves — consolidating schools and jails — that he claims will save around $70 million by then, which would be about 10 percent of what’s going to be needed. Just $617 million more to cut.
Contrary to the sputtering of conservative cranks, that kind of savings can’t be accomplished by reducing the size of the Legislature, jailing people who purchase beer with food stamps, or preventing publicly funded gubernatorial candidates like Barbara Merrill from paying their spouses 100 grand to work on their campaigns. Doing those things would still leave us short of our goal by ... let’s see ... carry the six ... looks like slightly more than $616 million.