Governor John Baldacci of Maine gives a rosing speech at the MDP Convention in Augusta, Maine 2006. Photo by Ramona du Houx • More people are working than ever before in Maine’s history. • More people are moving into Maine than are leaving. • Maine is one of only seven states to reduce the number of uninsured. • In the last […]
Governor John Baldacci of Maine gives a rosing speech at the MDP Convention in Augusta, Maine 2006. Photo by Ramona du Houx
• More people are working than ever before in Maine’s history.
• More people are moving into Maine than are leaving.
• Maine is one of only seven states to reduce the number of uninsured.
• In the last three and a half years we’ve protected more land than any prior administration: nearly one million acres.
• Maine was deemed to have a sound financial position BY ALL THREE New York bond rating agencies. — Governor John Baldacci
By Ramona du Houx
The Maine Democratic Convention succeeded in energizing Democrats from all areas of the state. Over 1,000 participants convened at the Augusta Civic Centre for two days. The proceedings were chaired with enthusiasm, decorum, and wit by Speaker of the House John Richardson.
The convention was a huge community gathering of like-minded people expressing themselves freely, making plans for Democratic victories and voicing their concerns and hopes.
“The Democratic Party is a party of the people,” said Ed Democracy. “I believe that the Democratic Party is the best existing network for spreading real change.”
The majority of attendees were volunteers making a commitment to their state. Maine ranks as the second highest New England state for volunteerism, just behind Vermont, according to “Volunteering in America: State Trends and Rankings,” a study recently released by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Many came for the speeches.
Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the keynote speaker. Feingold said he intends to help begin a dialogue about how we move forward as a country united by the values we share and the challenges we face together. He has started the Progressive Patriots Fund, a PAC dedicated to promoting a reform agenda.
He told the attentive audience that Democrats must “express bold ideas boldly” to win broad public support.
“President Bush has shown disrespect for the law of this nation and the Constitution,” said Feingold, describing when the president wiretapped American citizens and then deliberately misled the American people about the existence and scope of his secret program.
Sen. Feingold told Democrats that we need to be vigilant and fight back when an injustice occurs — at any level.
“If we do not censure, the administration will succeed in pushing us away any time the president gets caught with one of these abuses of power,” said Feingold referring to his censure resolution.
He encouraged Democrats to continue to stand up for what they believe. “To show strength — not weakness,” and repeated Congressman Allen’s call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the end of the year.
Congressmen Tom Allen and Mike Michaud’s speeches highlighted the problems the state, nation, and the world have faced because of the Bush Administration. They clearly stated that funds for programs that help Maine had been cut back at the federal level, forcing the state to make up for the shortfalls.
They criticized Bush for doing nothing about the outsourcing of jobs, for getting us into the war, and stealing from the poor to give to the rich, and they praised the governor for creating the Community College System, and Dirigo Health.
They highlighted how the president gave a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, but continually hurts and endangers citizens in need. The president’s focus is to help corporate America, they said, citing how pharmaceutical companies have profited from the federal government’s Medicare D program, while seniors have suffered, and how oil companies are making record profits off consumers’ backs.
Maine Congressmen Mike Michaud – photo by Ramona du Houx
These themes were carried further by Governor Baldacci’s speech.
“When I entered the Blaine House, coming out of the recession, we had a $1.2 billion budget deficit, an empty Rainy Day Fund, skyrocketing health-care costs, and Maine workers losing their health-care coverage.
“President Bush inherited President Clinton’s budget surplus and the ‘problem’ of a massive SURPLUS.
“But we needn’t have worried. President Bush put the kibosh on that problem right away, with a massive ‘temporary’ tax cut that gave us a massive $300 billion-plus deficit the following year. Another mission accomplished,” said the governor to applause.
He then enumerated accomplishments of his administration:
“In the past three years, we balanced the budget; we erased that billion-dollar deficit — without raising any broad-based sales or income tax. We’ve refilled the Rainy Day Fund, from zero to $100 million, and reduced our short-term borrowing by over 80 percent.
“So what’s the story in Washington? At the federal level, our children have inherited an $8 trillion debt …
“Here in Maine we moved ahead to create good paying jobs with benefits and grow our economy. We established Pine Tree Zones that have created thousands of jobs. We created incentives to broaden economic activity to rural communities.
“And, we increased R & D investment and strategically invested in new and emerging technologies, as well as ones that add value to our natural resources:
• Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor will be adding several hundred new jobs over the next five years.
• Idexx Laboratories in Westbrook will begin a multimillion-dollar expansion resulting in several hundred new jobs.
• Cooke Aquaculture has invested $25 million in Washington County over the last two years and plans to invest another $60 million in the next two.
• In the past three years, over 1,400 new small businesses were launched, creating nearly 5,000 new jobs in Maine.”
When discussing health care the governor stated that he will continue to ensure seniors will be taken care of in Maine for as long as the faults of federal programs continue.
“We all know health care is a problem across the country. It’s a problem Washington should be dealing with and they’re not … [In Maine] we created a health-care initiative so successful it has now been recognized as one of the top initiatives nationally.
“Today, through Dirigo, more than 15,000 Maine people have affordable, quality health care, and by the end of 2006 this number will increase by another 7,000,” said the governor.
He cited the story of Sanda Tibbits who had no insurance until Dirigo came along. After a checkup it was discovered that she had cancer. She received prompt treatment and is doing fine. Without Dirigo she could have died. “Sandra was able to get the treatment she needed and the hope she lacked. Our job isn’t done until every Mainer can afford the same quality health care,” said Baldacci.
“In Maine we understand our state’s economy depends on the responsible protection and preservation of our environment and natural resources and the pursuit of energy independence.
Over the last three years, Maine has led the way toward a cleaner, safer environment:
• Reduced mercury and lead in our air and water
• Launched an initiative to promote safer chemicals
• Adopted Green Building Standards for state buildings, and
• Launched solar and wind initiatives to increase our renewable power supply
Despite the challenges we’ve faced, Maine is stronger today than it was three years ago.” —Governor Baldacci
The governor highlighted the hypocrisy of Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. “No child left behind equals no teacher left standing and no child moving ahead.” By comparison he said that:
“In Maine, we made community college a reality, opening the doors of higher education to thousands of our people. We laid the groundwork for the largest investment in local public education in Maine’s history, providing $280 million more in aid to local schools.
“In the last three years, we have transformed our higher education system. Over 11,000 students are attending community colleges; enrollment is up 42 percent and enrollment of students directly from high school has jumped 50 percent.
“We have reinvested in the classroom, and now Maine leads the nation in classroom investment and is one of only two states that puts more than 65 percent of the education budget into classroom instruction.
“We have increased starting teachers’ salaries to make sure we attract and retain the best and the brightest teachers in our schools.”
The governor concluded by asking for the opportunity to continue his plans for everyone’s future in Maine:
“We owe it to all of Maine to stay true to the Maine spirit, that guiding passion that lives in every citizen of our state, setting us apart from the rest of the nation, that makes our state’s most important natural resource, not our great forests, our rivers, our lakes, our stunning shoreline, but our mill workers and shipbuilders, our teachers and students, our nurses and doctors, our soldiers at home and abroad, our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters … our people.
“It is this spirit that calls on all of us to ask not, How are we going to succeed? but, How are we going to succeed together?
“Let us not forget that this spirit we inherited from our forbears endows us not just with industry, but with responsibility; that we are charged with no burden but the duty of goodwill to our community. We are strong as one, but stand much stronger together.”
• “We will grow 25,000 new jobs in Maine in the next five years.
• We will provide universal access to healthcare for Maine citizens.
• We will build educational opportunity and prepare our state for the 21st century.
• We will leave a Maine full of hope and opportunity for our children and grandchildren.”
During the final hours of the convention’s proceedings, the Maine Democratic Party called for a congressional investigation into allegations that President Bush and his vice president committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” and is urging Congress “to initiate impeachment proceedings against them,” if warranted.
“Mission accomplished,” said Richard Rottkov, who chairs the South Portland Democratic City Committee, in response to the resolution. “This will send a message that we, as Mainers and as Americans, are not going to be weak. We’re going to be strong.”