Thursday, July 17, 2008

Windmill tilt

If there's one subject that gets Mainers energized, and in the political mood, it's taxes. Take for instance The Fed Up With Taxes Campaign. This group, with funding provided by the beer and wine industry, beverage and soft drink associations, as well as Coca-Cola Bottling, is far from the "people's veto" that proponents are calling it.

Campaigns like this one get most of our legislative body all excited. Send these same folks workforce related proposals, and they couldn't be bothered to respond, or think creatively about how to boost economic opportunities in the state. Low-wage jobs, filled by low-skill workers will never move our state beyond the sometimes feudal (and often, futile) economy that makes up large portions of rural Maine. Fortunately for some areas, there are people aware of these needs and they're fashioning something proactive to address the issue.

My take on all of this is that while no one likes taxes, our state's overriding problem is a revenue issue. Increase revenue, by creating living wage jobs, like the kind that alternative energy has the potential to create, and beverage and snack taxes won't seem so important. Instead, like a one-trick pony, the state's anti-tax crusaders keep tilting at the same windmill.

Speaking of windmills, the state of Texas increased its already formidable national lead in wind power by clearing the way Thursday for a major expansion of the state's electrical power transmission network, valued at nearly $5 billion, a move that will triple its current wind power capacity.

The decision consolidates Texas as "the epicenter of land-based wind energy development in North America, if not the world," said Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman in a statement.

Texas is addressing challenges, and looking to get out in front on the energy issue, something that I've proposed that Maine do. Instead, our leadership prefers to collect petition signatures, rather than find ways to help Mainers offset escalating fuel prices.

FMI information about wind's potential as a key alternative power source, and its potential to help diversify our energy mix, not to mention an economic driver, check out the Department of Energy's report on this.

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