A mom’s perspective on Maine’s revenue surplus

I told a colleague that something she wrote left me almost speechless, and she immediately emailed me back: “Trish, speechless? ;)” and gave me a well-needed laugh. I was still dabbing at the tears prompted by her piece about a young man addicted to heroin.

Yes, I know I am wordy.  Sometimes I read other posts by bloggers and think, how do they express themselves so well in so few words? And, yes, I can laugh at myself.

I can also challenge myself to be different sometimes, so here goes. My attempt at a short blog post. It’s about the definition of the word “surplus.” When you Google it, it pops up as: “an amount of something left over when requirements have been met; an excess of production or supply over demand.”

Currently Maine has more than a $72-million revenue surplus. Gov. Paul LePage wants all the money to go into the rainy day fund. Lawmakers have various ideas about how much should be saved and how much could go toward other expenditures.

I do agree that some amount should be put into the rainy day fund, but my problem is with characterizing this revenue as a surplus. Yes, it is revenue that exceeded budget projections, but, as the definition suggests, a surplus is only a surplus after requirements have been met. Call it a mom’s oversimplification, but I can’t see a state that has hungry children as a state with a surplus.

If my children were hungry, I couldn’t call any income coming into our household a surplus. Surpluses come after everyone has been fed, and right now almost one in four children (along with 23 percent of seniors) experience food insecurity. Why are these children experiencing hunger?

Sometimes families fall on hard financial times. Sometimes parents struggle with mental illness and substance use disorders in ways that can make managing a household and caring for children nearly impossible. There are no reasons “why” that justify those children actually going hungry, though. Economic factors, illnesses, family dysfunctions — factors all beyond children’s control — don’t make letting children go hungry okay.

Knowing so many children experience hunger makes my mom’s heart ache.

When kids are going hungry, I’m not okay with thinking our state has a surplus. And back to my colleague’s story, when kids are unable to access effective treatment for addictions, I’m not okay with the idea of a surplus, either. My heart aches for the mom in that story, too.

Too bad a mom isn’t in charge of that surplus.

423 words — not bad!


Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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