Politics and Other Mistakes

She's smart, honest, and running for Governor. What's not to love?
By AL DIAMON  |  January 5, 2006

I think I’m in love.

Not like I’m in love with my wife. Or my dogs. Or beer.

It’s more of a conceptual thing, like how I’d love to have a plasma TV with a screen the size of Aroostook County and surround sound capable of stunning passing moose.

But the TV was last year’s unrequited love. I’m over it. A little sadder. A little wiser.

This year, I’ve fallen for the concept of a gubernatorial candidate who’s honest, smart, and courageous enough to challenge both the left and right. Somebody with real solutions. It also wouldn’t hurt if this person owned a plasma TV and invited me over to watch the Super Bowl.

I’m looking for a candidate who’ll say this: "[W]e are all paying far too much for a dysfunctional state government." And this: "[W]e are only offered choices between Democratic leaders who advocate more of the same and the Republicans who want less of the same." And this: "We are told over and over by our current leaders that our natural inclination to spend only what we have, protect our environment, support local schools, save our local hospitals, and fight for local control of our communities must be tempered for the sake of our economic future. I believe that just the opposite is true: that our economic future is tied directly to clean air, clean and abundant water, excellent schools, good health care, and strong local communities where local voters, not state government, [call] the shots."

I may have found that candidate. These quotes come from a new book by state representative Barbara Merrill of Appleton titled "Setting the Maine Course: We Can Get There From Here." (Oddly enough, the book is dedicated to me, although I don’t know the author, and my name is spelled wrong.) Merrill is a lawyer and ex-lobbyist, who was elected to the Legislature in 2004 as a Democrat, but became an independent late last year in preparation for a run for governor. Last session, she won praise from rural Mainers for fighting attempts to close small-town schools and the enmity of Governor John Baldacci for voting against his phony property-tax relief bill and his deficit-riddled budget.

Her book is full of common sense. She says we can’t boost our economy by offering tax breaks to out-of-state corporations, while allowing traditional industries, such as boat building, to wither. "[W]e don’t need all that much," she writes. "We are a small state looking for a few thousand more good jobs."

To create them, she’d eliminate the corporate income tax and property tax on business equipment. But she’d also end tax breaks, like Baldacci’s Pine Tree Zones, that give some companies an unfair advantage. The result, she says, would turn Maine into the "Free Enterprise State."

Merrill promises to reduce state regulations by over 50 percent, although she wouldn’t weaken rules that protect air and water. She’d also make the Land For Maine’s Future program self-sustaining by allowing it to issue its own bonds.

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