Economic strategy should not create higher prices

This is Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham, of Winter harbor, with the weekly Republican Radio Address.

As summer moves into full swing, Mainers have high hopes for the season that makes us ‘Vacationland.’  After two years of closures and shutdowns, our businesses need a robust season to make up for substantial losses.

Unfortunately, our Memorial Day numbers were disappointing.  With good weather, the Maine Turnpike Authority projected that we would return to, if not exceed, our 2019 visitation numbers.  Memorial Day weekend is not only our biggest tourist weekend, it is the official start to the summer tourist season. It sets expectations for the coming months.

For 2022, the Maine Turnpike Authority was suggesting that we would see a record amount of traffic Memorial Day weekend, but alas, that did not materialize. We were 7% lower than in 2019, according to the Maine Turnpike Authority tally after the long weekend.

We now face yet another summer, the third in a row, in which state government decision-making has resulted in less money in the pockets of Maine citizens. First, we had forced shutdowns and travel restrictions, and now we face out of control cost increases in goods and services, and crippling gas prices.

This is the result of trillions of dollars in printed money being pumped into the economy and democrat energy policies designed to discourage the use of oil and gas in order to move people toward electric generation.

It’s a double threat to a tourism economy like Maine’s. The things people from away come to Maine to enjoy are more expensive and the cost of getting here is more expensive.  This makes Maine’s economy vulnerable to government policies that appear to have no rhyme or reason. 

Shutting down domestic oil production, pipelines, and government permits, combined with proposals to tax home heating fuel, have made life increasingly unaffordable for our most vulnerable populations. The State of Maine over-collected $1.3 billion in tax revenues, well in excess of what it takes to run state government. These are just a few examples of failing democrat policy approaches to our current economic turmoil.

Mainebiz last week reported that Maine is ranked the 7th worst economy in the country.  That puts us at 44 out of 51 (the study included the District of Columbia).  This ranking was done across 28 criteria that ranged from household income, to entrepreneurial activity, to gross domestic product change.

In some categories Maine ranked even lower.  For median household income, we ranked 50 with only West Virginia having a lower median income.  Maine ranks last economically among all Northeastern states.

Despite this, Maine collected record revenue that took a record amount of money from people working every day to earn it.  A record amount taken while you have to pay more for food and more for gas.

Let’s hope the upcoming Fourth of July holiday sees the beginning of a turnaround, so Mainers can feel some seasonal relief.  But, we all know seasonal relief is not enough and we must have real economic recovery based on sound economic policy.

Recovery begins when we change the way Maine State government functions. Politicians need to step aside, so that Mainers can keep more of what they earn at their jobs. Wages that were rising before the Biden and Mills administrations, cannot be dictated artificially.

We need jobs supported by expanded access to local, affordable childcare that are not restrained by unnecessarily, burdensome regulations that are out of line with national and regional norms.  We need an economy that is able to grow because new business ideas and innovation are supported, not stifled by government over-regulation.  

Recovery begins when we empower families to find the best education for their children through increased educational choice. This is needed to overcome the learning loss incurred by Governor Mills’ forced shutdown of our schools.  We must broaden our focus to integrate technical, trade and vocational education programs in Maine’s high schools, so we can have a workforce that meets the needs of the employers we want to attract to Maine. 

Mainers don’t deserve to be 44th in the country.  We cannot continue to hope to attract more visitors, residents, and investors with an economic strategy that forces energy dependence and generates inflation by printing more money.   

Let’s look towards recovery.  Let’s hope for a strong July, but work towards a policy change that will see Maine grow and prosper.

Thank you for listening. This has been Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

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