Properly managing the finances of any successful enterprise starts with one simple principle: spend less money than you take in. From the family budget to the corporate balance sheet, spending wisely and minimizing debt are basic keys to economic prosperity. When the economy starts to slow down, this principle becomes even more important for households and businesses to follow. Scarce resources cannot be squandered, or you might find yourself in a deficit that you are unable to correct.

Right now, Maine's state finances are in a big mess. Thirty years of mismanagement in Augusta has created one of the worst business climates in the country. Businesses are relocating and taking well-paying jobs with them. Our families are suffering because they cannot find work and are among the most highly taxed citizens in the nation. The private sector is shrinking and the public sector is expanding. As a result, Maine cannot pay its bills and goes deeper in debt every year.

When faced with such a problem, a competent manager makes wise decisions and sets priorities to ensure he or she has taken care of the basics. Families curtail expenses to make sure they have money for bare essentials. Companies reduce frivolous costs and improve efficiencies so they do not diminish the quality of their products and services. At the very least, a competent manager will slow the growth of spending to match the pace of the economy.

Conversely, a poor manager ignores the warning signs and proceeds with the status quo. When they begin hemorrhaging money and can no longer balance their budget, they put the whole enterprise in jeopardy. This is the problem we currently have in Augusta. Our elected officials have ignored all the warning signs for decades, continually mismanaged our finances, and now put our future at risk.

On November 3, our citizens have a chance to institute a measure of control over how our State is managed. If passed, Question 4 would limit the amount the state can tax and spend, forcing our elected officials to better manage the hard-earned tax dollars we send to Augusta before they can come back to us for more. It is both reasonable and fair to expect the stewards of our state finances to get our fiscal house in order before they can increase spending and taxes beyond the pace of the economy. "Yes" on Question 4 will ensure that there will be no more blank checks from taxpayers.

Contrary to what has been said by opponents of Question 4, it would not threaten state or municipal budgets with draconian cuts. In fact, under the law, spending could increase in perpetuity so long as it did not outpace inflation plus population growth. Even then, voters can approve budget proposals that exceed this formula. "Yes" on Question 4 protects the rights of Mainers to have a say in how their money is taxed and spent.

At its core, Question 4 is about management. The state is mismanaged, our tax dollars are wasted, and without a "yes" on Question 4, Augusta will continue to spend lavishly without consequence. Passing Question 4 will not fix all of our financial problems. But as an experienced business manager and owner, I can tell you that passing Question 4 is a great first step.

Maine is a wonderful place to live. We can also make it a promising place to work. If we don't take action soon and bring strong leadership, competent management, and accountability to state government, it will be neither. Passing Question 4 is the first step to ensuring a promising future for our great state of Maine.

Bruce Poliquin has owned and operated a number of businesses in Maine and is a candidate for governor.