12 reasons why LePage’s State of the State was an utter fail

Short quick, random thoughts after reading the State of the State letter:

1. After the drama about not doing a State of the State speech and the length of time since the announcement, I was expecting more than regurgitated talking points.

2. “Socialist, socialist, socialist!” That’s LePage’s new take on Jan Brady’s, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

Gov. Paul LePage, pictured in Portland in June 2015. (Troy R. Bennett | BDN)

Gov. Paul LePage, pictured in Portland in June 2015. (Troy R. Bennett | BDN)

3. Where’s the concern about most counties losing income since 2000?

4. Where’s the concern about hunger in Maine? Almost one in four children and 23 percent of seniors experience food insecurity in Maine. Thirty-five percent of people experiencing food insecurity make “too much to qualify for public assistance.”

5. How can we possibly afford to perform suspicion-less drug testing on every single person in Maine receiving some sort of public assistance (hundreds of thousands of people including more than 275,000 on MaineCare)?

Urinalysis is expensive and each screen would have to establish whether the recipient has legal access to marijuana, opiates, benzodiazepines, etc. Further, federal law prohibits drug testing SNAP recipients. These tests when applied in various forms have been shown to be costly and ineffective. And Florida’s suspicion-less drug testing for TANF has been declared unconstitutional repeatedly in court.

6. Following a bullet about legally questionable suspicion-less drug tests for hundreds of thousands of people with a sentence that starts with the phrase “these reforms will free up resources” shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what is being proposed and the costs, including legal, that will be incurred should such an idea become a regulation. Florida’s been unsuccessfully fighting in court for two years to enforce their suspicion-less TANF drug testing.

Tennessee began requiring that all TANF applicants complete a questionnaire screening for substance abuse. In one month there were 812 applicants, and 802 passed the questionnaire and were not mandated for drug testing; four refused to fill out the questionnaire; six were referred for further drug testing, and only one failed — a less than stellar example of conservative policies resulting in smaller, less expensive, more effective government.

7. Any discussion about welfare reform that doesn’t have at least one or two bullets about hunger and about providing for all the needy children in our communities and about the elderly and disabled is a discussion that should be ignored. There’s so much more to the populations receiving services than just the categories LePage seems obsessed with: the lazy bums, the druggies, and the folks on the waiting list he uses like a club to beat people into believing he cares.

8. How does kicking someone with a substance abuse disorder who incurred a felony level charge off any public assistance permanently line up with supporting the concept of treatment and recovery?

9. I understand the importance of thoughtful tax reform, but I’m confused as to how  LePage can assert that lower personal income taxes are better than higher wages for working poor families who already get most, if not all, of their income taxes back through federal and state earned income programs? I’m no tax expert, but I can’t help but feel like LePage sounds like a barker selling a shell game every time he talks about tax reform or wages.

10. Student debt isn’t the only thing crippling our youth. Hunger, homelessness, challenges at home and school, and other prohibitive factors limit the potential of many children who are too worried about basics to think about incurring student debt.

11. How can the governor fault the legislature for delaying the hire of more drug enforcement agents when it turned out the administration was able to find the money without legislative support? Doesn’t that mean that both branches could have acted sooner? How is the legislative delay political gamesmanship, but his isn’t?

12. If all LePage has to offer is repeating the same talking points over and over and over, tossing in a new word here or there as he goes, what will be the state of the state by the time his term ends?

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.