Listening to the people – is that so hard?

By Reade Brower | Nov 16, 2017

The voters spoke this past election on referendums that asked voter preferences. Clear mandates were handed down, with Maine voters telling their legislators they did not support the casino for southern Maine, while supporting a transportation bond, a pension fund amendment and Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid was the closest, but almost 60 percent of Maine citizens made it clear they want health insurance expanded to include more Mainers.

Referendums get put on the ballot for the people, by the people. The reason is that often our governor and our legislative bodies cannot create bipartisan support to move forward on key issues.

It is the Legislature’s job and duty to enact what the people vote for. Common sense says that “how,” not “should we” should be the next step.

Perhaps “tweaks” are needed, but the notion to ignore it and veto it, after the voting ship has sailed, is usually irresponsible and most times arrogant.

In the 2016 election, Maine voters said “yes” to ranked choice voting, a minimum wage increase and recreational marijuana.

The minimum wage needed a tweak because the minimum wage fell victim to the Maine’s Peoples Alliance's desire to impose its will on tipped workers; rather than separating the issue, they combined it with the overall minimum wage, instead of respecting what the industry and (most importantly) the workers wanted. It was a case of the Alliance thinking it knew what was best, and it took a lot of fighting by the restaurant workers of Maine to get their exemption back. The tweak did not turn back the spirit of what the people wanted, it clarified it. If the Maine Peoples Alliance wants to have a separate vote on eliminating the tipped credit, it should go for it, but the people in the know (the tipped workers themselves) have spoken, and the Alliance should listen.

With ranked choice voting, the people spoke. Those opposed questioned the legality; a smokescreen for “I don’t agree with what the people want.” Governor and legislators: fix the legality and give the people what they voted for.

Marijuana legalization; the referendum had some holes in it -- fix them and give the people what they voted for, rather than taking moral high ground that doesn’t respect the will of the people.

Lastly, the vote to put more of the tax burden on the richest Mainers with a 3 percent surcharge; dead in the water because Gov. Paul LePage, and his Republican allies believe that they know better than the people who elected them and are rejecting it “for our own good.” That might be true, but why have a referendum process if you don’t abide by the results? At the least, listen to the people and realign the tax burden according to that vote.

That brings us to 2017 and the Medicaid expansion.

Literally hours after the mandate, LePage weighed in promising to derail it, or at least delay it for the 70,000 lower-income residents who would benefit. This has angered both supporters who voted for it, and the legislators who believe that the people have spoken and it is their job to make it happen.

While this expansion must be funded, and the governor is right, we need to figure out how to pay for it, he is wrong to stand in the way because he doesn’t like it. There were plenty of people who didn’t like his election, and then reelection, but standing in the way of his taking office would have ignored the will of the Maine people.

There isn’t a clear way to pay for it; the job of the governor and the legislators is to figure it out. What the people want is for more Mainers to have access to affordable health insurance; that’s what they voted for, that is what they should get.

Maine is the first state in the country to vote in universal health care and we have a chance to become a model for how we take care of our own. With a strong history in Maine of neighbors helping neighbors, creating a health care system for all is the mandate – instead of fighting it; tweak it, fix it, find a commonsense way to get it done.

A healthy state is a happy state; preventive health care and elimination of bureaucracy should lead the charge.

Listening to the people; is that really so hard – especially after they’ve spoken loud and clear?

“True patriotism springs from a belief in the dignity of the individual, freedom and equality not only for Americans but for all people on earth, universal brotherhood and good will, and a constant and earnest striving toward the principles and ideals on which this country was founded.”

--- Eleanor Roosevelt, U.S. first lady, diplomat, author (1884-1962)

Comments (2)
Posted by: John Alexander | Nov 16, 2017 20:07 are so right!

Posted by: Fred H Bowers | Nov 16, 2017 18:19

I agree. The Referendum is just as legitimate as the legislative process and should be encouraged by this Governor. Instead, he delays.

If you wish to comment, please login.