Maine’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign carries a familiar theme of campaigns being waged across the country. This has been the year for candidates with extreme positions to step forward. But we are fortunate to have a third choice. We have Eliot Cutler, the candidate who recognizes that the state governance to which we have grown accustomed is no longer sustainable. And that while there are reasons to be angry, anger and bravado will not get us where we need to be. Nor will, for that matter, conducting more business as usual in government.

Two recent opinion pieces in the New York Times, The Austerity Caucus by conservative-leaning David Brooks and Third Party Rising by liberal-leaning Tom Friedman, suggest approaches that can be ascribed to Eliot Cutler.

Brooks says there is a movement across the country whereby citizens are supporting candidates and elected officials “who can happily spend hours in the budget weeds looking for efficiencies.” And he points to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has successfully cut deficits, even with a Democratic Legislature, by holding “almost nothing sacrosanct.” Christie has spread cuts across every agency, even education.

Friedman says: “We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say, ‘These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear if we want to be the world’s leaders, not the new Romans.’”

At the top of his plan, Eliot Cutler places “Candor and Confidence” and “Lowering the Cost of Living and Doing Business in Maine.” The same two practices are called for by Friedman and Brooks.

Each of us, since 2008, whether an individual or as a business owner, has had to be candid with ourselves and our employees, lower our cost of living and our cost of doing business. It is time for our state government to do the same. It is time be more systematic, rigorous and stern with its budgeting process.

Eliot Cutler says he will look at every line item in the budget, taking a zero-based budgeting approach. This is a practice whereby every budget line item is assumed to be zero and then built up from zero on a cost/benefit basis. The more common approach to budgeting is to assume an existing budget and then build up or down from that point.

He says: “I will personally chair a commission similar to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which the federal government uses to determine which military bases to keep or to close. This commission will review all state programs and agencies, and within a year will make a series of recommendations to make state government more innovative, more efficient and less costly. I will present those recommendations to the Legislature as a single package, and on behalf of the taxpayers of Maine I will ask the Legislature for a simple yes or no vote.”

I find this attention to the details of the budget weeds and the willingness to tell us what we need to hear refreshing. This approach that works between the extremes of bravado and business-as-usual is not only encouraging, but necessary. This is why I will vote for Eliot Cutler and why I urge you to do the same.