Growing public awareness offers hope that 2022 will bring needed changes and a return to a normalcy that has been absent for years.
This is House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham, of Oxford, with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.
In the coming weeks, we will begin to hear from the administration that the pandemic wasn’t that bad– that Mainers have sailed through. This tonal shift in the talking points from the Governor doesn’t align with the on-the-ground experience of everyday Mainers and shows that this administration is out of touch with the Mainers that they serve.
Higher prices continue to plague Maine families. Everything costs a lot more than it did a short time ago. Just this month, Mainers received their electric bills reflecting a significant increase. The cost of electricity went up significantly with the standard offer average rate going up 83% due to an increase in generation costs.
The costs for groceries, gasoline, and home heating fuel have all increased.
With rising costs, any benefit Mainers have seen from increased wages or stimulus checks has been nullified, and yet government continues to take more of your tax dollars than necessary to meet its budgetary needs.
The Governor says our economy is strong but the recently released unemployment rate numbers are showing our unemployment rate at 4.7%. Maine continues to lag behind the rest of the New England states, as well as the national average of 3.9%. Next door in New Hampshire, the rate is 2.6%, in Vermont it’s 2.5%, and in Massachusetts the rate is 3.9%.
People can and do hold strong opinions about masks and vaccinations. But, one thing is certain, and can be agreed on across all party lines, during the pandemic, our kids’ mental health and wellbeing has suffered. And through no fault of our educators, many of our children have fallen further behind academically, as well as socially.
We collectively mourn those who have passed away during the pandemic and there are no words that can lessen their loss, but thankfully, only two children under the age of 20 have died with covid. That is two out of a total of 1,777 Mainers that have died with covid. These evidenced based statistics support reassessing covid guidelines specifically addressing school-aged children.
Of great concern is the mental health and physical safety impact covid-19 has on our children, aside from the direct covid-19 health risks.
The Bangor Daily News recently reported: “Recorded child deaths in Maine doubled between 2020 and 2021 to the highest single-year total since the state’s child welfare system began collecting that data.”
“Twenty-five children died last year in incidents tracked by the state that were associated with abuse or neglect or after a history of family involvement with the child welfare system, according to updated data released by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services last week.”
It is encouraging that state government is focusing on our child welfare system, and this should not be treated or reported on as a partisan issue.
The wellbeing of our children is broader than just those involved with child protective services and it has not received enough attention.
Hopefully the end of the restrictive, and at times arbitrary, government response is in sight and valuable lessons have been learned that will allow us to move forward in a more comprehensive and cohesive fashion.
One issue of great concern to House Republicans has been the Governor’s seemingly arbitrary mandates, and the complete refusal to work with Maine’s healthcare providers, to develop a policy that would have prevented the increased staff shortages the healthcare system is experiencing today. The lack of hospital access was pointed out by Maine’s healthcare systems in August and continues to be ignored by the administration and the press.
Thousands of healthcare professionals were fired by the Governor during a pandemic, reducing the beds available to treat patients because of a refusal to work with healthcare providers to find a testing solution.
One of Maine’s largest healthcare organizations, and countless other healthcare professionals, pleaded with the Governor to put in place a policy that would allow health professionals to continue to work.
Instead of protecting the needs of an already strained healthcare system, the Governor fired our one-time heroes.
The result has been exactly what healthcare professionals and Republicans warned about last August.
There have been shortages, patient diversions, closed facilities, and postponed medical procedures, including routine cancer screenings.
The National Guard was called in, along with federal assistance, and we now find ourselves with a policy from the administration where vaccinated covid-positive healthcare professionals are allowed to go to work and are no longer required to provide a negative test before returning; and yet, the Governor will not allow former healthcare professionals, who choose not to vaccinate, wearing the proper PPE to protect themselves and their patients, and who test negative for covid, to return to their profession. The reason given by the Governor, and her administration, in demanding that healthcare workers be vaccinated was for the health and safety of those that they care for. We know vaccination status does not prevent transmission of covid and yet the Governor, and the administration, will allow covid positive healthcare professionals to perform their duties in the workplace.
The governor will give a long list of workforce shortages she inherited and that is fair. Our licensing and regulatory regime implemented by legislative democrats, that they have been in control for decades, have made living and working in Maine difficult and it is admirable that the Governor recognizes that. But, blaming your inheritance should not excuse the direct actions that have exacerbated shortages during the Governor’s tenure in office.
Adding to our healthcare shortage because the Governor and her administration would not allow a testing option for unvaccinated healthcare professionals, as so many other states have done, was not inherited. That was a policy decision made and implemented by this Governor.
Listeners may ask: What would Republicans do to address these and other problems that Mainers face every day?
For starters, allow long-time healthcare professionals to return to their chosen profession provided they test negative for covid before entering the workplace.
Secondly, we can develop a policy and best practices to ensure that our children can safely return to in-person instruction and extracurricular activities. With the help of our educators, dedicate ourselves to addressing the loss of learning our students have experienced.
Thirdly, state government can stop taking more of your money than it needs. Rather than growing government to spend any increase in projected revenues, we should be reducing the taxes and fees that are driving the projected revenues.
House Republicans are calling for returning the $822 million in projected revenue increases to Mainers who are being impacted by rising prices on virtually everything. We will continue to press that Mainers be able to keep more of what they earn to allow them to invest in Maine through their spending practices rather than having government take more to expand and grow government.
Our immediate solution: to allow Mainers to keep more of their hard-earned income is to push for tax reform by reducing the individual income tax, as well as returning the increased revenues to people struggling to cover the rising costs of living outlined in this address.
All of Maine needs a break. We need to adapt to what is around us, and government needs to stop trying to control our citizens with fear in order to seek support for policies with no basis in evidence-based practices or proven statistical data. Government needs to support education policies to prevent further education loss and harm to our children, while supporting parental participation and choice in the education of their children. Government needs to work to prevent further failure and closure of our businesses, and instead of actively putting professionals out of a job, and instead seek to grow Maine’s workforce.
As the Governor now shifts her narrative on covid to tell us it isn’t what we think it is, we remain committed to getting Maine back on track and addressing the structural issues in state government affecting the opportunities for all Mainers to grow and enrich their lives in the state they love.
This has been House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham with the Weekly Republican Radio Address. Thank you for listening, subscribing, sharing, and following us on Facebook and Instagram.