Ethan: Some $149.5 million in bonding is on the ballot this Tuesday! This is a government stimulus dream come true.
Phil: Yeah, and a deficit hawk’s nightmare.
Ethan: C’mon, Phil, the economy needs a shot in the arm. It’s the first thing that LePage has done that might actually create jobs.
Phil: I certainly agree that Question 3, the $100 million investment in our roads, ports, harbors, trains, aviation, and bridges is important for our economy. It creates jobs in the short term, and builds the infrastructure for businesses to survive, and perhaps thrive.
Ethan: I knew you had some big government in you.
Phil: Not big government. Effective government. When you use capital to create more economic value and you pay back our lenders based on the economic growth, that is effective government. Too often we grow government services, which crowd out things like basic and vital infrastructure.
Ethan: I wish you had been in Congress in 2009, so you could have given that speech in support of Obama’s stimulus package.
Phil: You mean the trillion we spent on “shovel ready” projects that never seemed to materialize?
Ethan: I wish it had been a trillion! But the $787 billion we spent on roads, bridges, tax cuts, education, and local municipalities had great positive impact on our economy in the same way that these bonds will have a positive impact on our economy.
Phil: If Congress and the president had paid for the stimulus by cutting costs elsewhere, I might have been able to support it, but they simply borrowed from China and put the bill on the backs of our grandchildren. I would have liked them to do the same in Maine.
Ethan: We’ve already cut to the bone, but that’s a conversation for another day. Don’t you think the education spending is needed? Question 2, $15.5 million for the University of Maine System, will go toward classroom and technology upgrades from Augusta to Fort Kent. Nursing labs, science facilities and outdated STEM classrooms are all looking to get 21st-century upgrade. Nothing speaks to our future like investing in education.
Phil: Sure, but for a system that is losing enrollment and has increased tuition in past years, one would think they might be able to find the money within their own budgets.
Ethan: Not when we have already been starving them for years.
Phil: Really? Perhaps we should look at how many students matriculate and how many graduate. Then, we should ask ourselves if we are delivering what the economy is seeking. I’ve heard all the “economic multiplier effect” presentations from my time on the Appropriations Committee. If it passes, I sure hope this one actually delivers.
Ethan: I don’t have any doubt that it will.
Phil: I will say that I fully support Question 5, the $15.5 million for community colleges. These funds will go to build the new Southern Maine Community College facilities at the old Brunswick Naval Air Station, upgrade classrooms at York County Community College, and even renovate the IT facilities at Aroostook Hall in Northern Maine Community College. This is a part of the budget that often gets squeezed because of all those other programs you Democrats seem to create every year. Our community colleges are the true backbone of helping working-class Mainers move up the ladder of independence.
Ethan: Agreed, except for the part about Democrats creating programs that crowd out the rest. Former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci did more to build up our community college system than any previous administration. And my understanding is that Dems were the ones that insisted that the community college piece be included.
Phil: A little sensitive about who gets credit, are we?
Ethan: Just a little. Election year is right around the corner, you know.
Phil: Don’t remind me. By the way, be sure to give credit to Gov. John McKernan for elevating what were then called technical colleges.
Ethan: Finally we have Question 1, the $14.5 million to upgrade our armories, and Question 4, the $4.5 million bond for Maine Maritime Academy. What’s your take on those?
Phil: I’m voting yes. Maine Maritime has a proud history and a brighter future because of offshore wind possibilities, vast floating data storage facilities and the growth in ocean transportation.
Ethan: Jeez, don’t tell the governor you are promoting offshore wind!
Phil: I think the governor would be fine with offshore wind as long as it actually brings downs electricity rates and it is created by Maine companies. Me too. In terms of the armories, as we all know, ice storms, flooding of our mighty rivers and the ever present possibility that some terrorist will try to destroy America, could happen as people read our column. Having our armories up to date is prudent. See? There is a good government side of me.
Ethan: I knew it! I am starting to think you’ve got a bit more New Deal Democrat in you than I originally thought. Philip “Delano” Harriman has a nice ring.
Phil: Don’t get carried away.