Crafty politicians often run on vague promises and, once elected, undertake changes the electorate never saw coming.
I think of Barack Obama in 2008 promising “hope and change” in the vaguest terms possible.
Other times, politicians offer specific pledges during a campaign. They are honest enough to tell voters up front what they plan to do if elected.
Our current president is perhaps the best example. Trump told us he’d build a wall, destroy ISIS, strengthen the military and get tough on trade. Because such politicians are daring enough to share their plans with voters, they earn a license – and if their vote totals are high enough, a mandate – to pursue policy changes unabated.
Maine’s governor-elect, Janet Mills, is similar to Trump in this way. I admire her for running on specifics. At 50 percent of the vote, she didn’t quite earn a mandate, but she’s earned the right to pursue policy changes.
Let’s revisit some of Mills’ pledges as outlined on her campaign’s website. Four years from now we can look back and judge the performance of Gov. Janet, as she wants to be called.
On health care:
“Health care is not a luxury. It is something we all need. It is a human right. As governor, my top priority will be to tackle the affordability and accessibility for hardworking, middle-class Mainers, businesses and self-employed individuals across the state.”
On Medicaid expansion:
“Medicaid expansion … is the law and it is smart public policy that will help lower the cost of health care for Maine businesses, infuse half-a-billion dollars of federal money into Maine’s economy, create an estimated 6,000 jobs, save our rural hospitals, and provide cost-effective preventive care to 70,000 people. That’s why I found $35 million to fund it. I hope Medicaid expansion is implemented before I become governor, but if it’s not, I will do it on Day One and work to implement reasonable cost controls to ensure that it remains affordable in the future.”
On the opioid crisis:
“Make naloxone, also known as Narcan, available to every family and agency that needs it.
“Expand drug courts and provide medication-assisted treatment and supportive services to participants. Along with prosecuting those who poison our communities, we must also provide help to users in the most effective way.”
On Indian relations:
“I will work to remove once and for all, offensive names for teams, schools and mascots that have no place in our modern-day society.
“I will partner with the Tribal Nations to create jobs, bring broadband to the reservations and work on expanding ecotourism and new industries.”
“The goal of my administration will be to have a ‘cradle-to-college’ approach: strive for the highest-achieving young children and the most qualified young adults of any state in the country.
“My Administration will improve Maine’s education systems by: Implementing Universal pre-K for every 4-year-old in Maine … Invest in a ‘Rural Return Scholarship’ to incentivize young people from rural Maine to return to their hometowns after college … Improving K-12 quality by eliminating unnecessary and counterproductive testing mandates, supporting further professional development, and increasing starting teacher pay.”
“I firmly believe the governor should be the recruiter-in-chief, promoter-in-chief, and closer-in-chief for the state, which is why, as governor, I will make opening new markets for Maine’s farmers a priority.
“From breweries to restaurants to farm stands, I believe it is essential that we utilize Maine’s tourism economy for the benefit of our agricultural industry.”
“I will support English Language Learner programs and Welcome Centers to accelerate the transition of new Mainers into the workforce and economy.
“I will send a clear message that those who follow the legal citizenship process are welcome to live, work and raise their families in Maine.”
On the economy:
“I am presenting ‘A New Prosperity: An Action Plan for Maine’s Economic Future’ … I will create the Small Business Accelerator to serve as a ‘one-stop shop’ for Maine businesses and start-ups who need help accessing financing, training workers, or handling state regulation; (I will) launch the Job Growth Loans program to provide 18 months of no-interest loans for small businesses to finance adding a new employee; (I will) establish the Welcome Home Program to help former and future Mainers to bring their current job to Maine to work remotely and live here; (and I will) provide the Rural Workplace Grant to help communities convert a downtown building into a co-working space with high-speed broadband for small businesses and remote workers.”
While Mills was busy making these and other promises, she repeatedly pledged not to raise our taxes. Considering the breadth of her plans, that might be a promise too far.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.