Treasurer's Blog: Transparency Saves Taxpayer Dollars

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Dear Friend,bruce_headshot 

Below is my most recent TREASURER'S BLOG. Please share it with your family, friends, and associates. My speaking schedule is posted on the Treasury website, where there is also a place to invite me to speak to your group. Thank you. 


Transparency Saves Taxpayer Dollars

Fiscal transparency results in fiscal frugality.

Shining light on wasteful spending, inefficiencies, and abuses of the public trust save taxpayer dollars.  A few recently-exposed examples are:

  • $160,000 of unaccounted gift card purchases by the former executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA).
  • $300,000 supposedly “affordable” 3-bedroom apartments created by Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA).
  • $4,000 celebratory dinner and drinks in New York after a bond sale by the Maine Municipal Bond Bank (MMBB).
  •  40 years of no-bid legal work performed by a New York firm for the Maine Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority (MHHEFA).

The cumulative savings can be huge.  The gross fiscal misconduct at the MTA has resulted in a 60% reduction of future travel expenses, cancelled credit cards, and a criminal investigation of the resigned executive director.  New MSHA board members are forcing cost containment measures in building affordable housing: “non-profit” developers, solar hot water hookups, and union wages are no longer given preference to contractors bidding to receive taxpayer subsidies.  No more expensive 3-day trips to New York to sign MMBB bond closing documents. After 40 years, MHHEFA will send its legal work out to bid.

During nine months as State Treasurer, I’ve been told repeatedly that the eight quasi-independent Authorities are just that -- independent of state government.  If so, why do the Banking Superintendent, State Treasurer, and five State Commissioners serve on the various boards of directors?  Why does the Governor appoint vacant Authority board members?  Why does the State’s “moral obligation” stand behind most Authority bonds sold to investors to borrow the money used to fund their programs?  Perhaps because it’s in the best interest of all that these Authorities are more closely overseen by inquisitive board members having no conflicts of interest.

The eight Authorities were created over the years by the Legislature to provide valuable services to the people of Maine.  They are instruments of state government and should be held accountable to the hard-working people of Maine.  We public officials have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure they are.  Doing their good work doesn’t mean doing it at any cost.

Many of the new leaders in Augusta, myself included, have worked lifetimes in the private sector.  To succeed, we’ve been held accountable by our customers, employees, and investors. The new LePage Administration is bringing that common sense principle to state government. Transparency at all levels will continue to save money for our new customers, the taxpayers of Maine.

There’s never a free lunch.  Don’t be fooled by “it’s included in the deal,” or that “it’s always been done this way.”  Our fellow Mainers who pay the Turnpike tolls, fund the affordable housing, and borrow to build a new landfill expect us to be very careful with their hard-earned tax dollars.  Nobody wants to discover wasteful or reckless spending.

Transparency in government not only saves taxpayer dollars.  It also builds sorely needed trust. As our new leadership team transforms state government into one that’s affordable, there will be many more difficult decisions to be made.  We’re going to need everyone’s help and support. That will only come with trust.

After 35 years of looking the other way, Maine state government is marching down a path of fiscal discipline.  One that spends less, taxes less, regulates less, and borrows less.  One that pinches every taxpayer penny and sheds light on those who do not.  This is critically important because fiscal prudence is the foundation of a healthy private sector economy.  And successful businesses expand and hire more workers.  These new employees consume, save and invest, which further grows Maine’s economic pie.  These new opportunities will help to keep our kids here.  The increased tax revenues will help fund government services for our citizens.

There’s a new attitude in Augusta.  Join us in building a more prosperous future based on transparency, trust, and being frugal when and where it counts.

 

Best Wishes,

Signature

Bruce Poliquin

State Treasurer