Archive for January, 2013
Today, the new Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future held its first committee meeting in the Energy, Utilities, and Technologies committee space (Rm 211 of the Cross Building). The first item of business included introductions of committee members and staff. Then Charles “Wick” Johnson of Kennebec Technologies spoke to the committee about his experience with the skills gap issues he faces in running his business.
There was significant discussion and presentations about the current landscape of Maine’s economy, including work force development, skills gap, small business and economic engines such as down towns and Main Street areas of Maine communities.
· Charles Colgan, Muskie School for Public Service, USM
· Jim Clair, CEO, Good Health Systems; Chair, Consensus Economic Forecasting Committee
· John Dorrer, Jobs for the Future
· Ed Cervone, President and CEO of Maine Development Foundation
“It’s clear we have a lot of work to do and what we heard today is that we need to focus on the very issues that this committee is designed for,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, who also serves as the Senate chair for the workforce committee. “We need to develop the skill sets of our workers so they’re aligned with Maine’s businesses, strengthen our economic hubs, like our Main Streets and downtowns, and grow our small businesses.”
During the presentation, Dr. Colgan noted that Maine has a “severe worker availability problem on the immediate horizon and it will be with us for the next 20 years.” He added that Maine lags behind the rest of the nation with high-paying occupations requiring advanced education. He also noted that Maine’s “business problem” is related more to “growing small businesses into medium-sized businesses. “
“The committee got off to a strong start today with an excellent overview of our state’s economy that will inform our legislation to strengthen our workforce, downtowns, and small businesses,” said House Majority Leader Representative Seth Berry, who serves as the House chair for the committee. “We’re confident that input from such experts and the public will help us develop effective measures to grow our economy and middle class.”
The joint select committee will work with experts and industry leaders to formulate a plan to improve Maine’s economy. Democrats said the plan would build on the bipartisan work done last session to streamline regulations.
The next scheduled meeting is for February 4th. On February 6th, the committee will travel to Bangor to speak with local business leaders, educators, employers, and workers to learn more about workforce development and skills gap issues as they apply to the greater Bangor area.
Here is a list with biographies of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and the Economic Future Committee members:
Senator Seth Goodall (D-Richmond), the Senate Majority Leader, is serving his third term in the Senate representing District 19 (Sagadahoc County). He is the cofounder of Goodall Landscaping, a small business now owned by his brother that employs nearly 30 people. While a selectman in his hometown of Richmond, he focused on revitalizing the downtown and creating jobs. He also served on the Economic Community Development Board, and currently serves on the Maine Economic Growth Council, a project of the Maine Development Foundation. The MEGC was established to develop a long-range economic plan for the state and to measure progress in achieving the plan’s benchmarks and goals via the annual release of the Measures of Growth report on the Maine economy.
Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), the House Majority Leader, is a fourth-term legislator who has served as ranking minority member of the Taxation Committee, Assistant House Majority Leader, and a member of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. A former teacher, he is now vice president for international business development of Kennebec River Biosciences in Richmond.
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Weekly Democratic Address of House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham): Outlining Maine Workforce & Economic Future Committee Goals
I’m Representative Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, the House Majority Leader in Augusta. Thank you for tuning in.
This week brought us an exciting development in our efforts to secure long-term prosperity for our state. We launched the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. This group will develop legislation to strengthen Maine’s workforce, downtowns and small businesses. I was honored to be named co-chair of this Committee along with Senator Seth Goodall, and we look forward to working with the thirteen other Republican, Independent, and Democratic members.
We all know Maine’s economy needs a boost. We were the only New England state whose economy shrunk in 2011. And we were one of only seven states in the nation to experience that kind of backslide.
Too many Mainers are unemployed or underemployed because of our economy. While other states recover, more than fifty-thousand Mainers remain without work. And on this cold winter morning, too many of our neighbors are faced with having to choose between breakfast, heating fuel, or medicine.
These are sobering facts, but we must remember all that Maine has going for it. We must focus on what is possible and positive, and work together to make that happen.
We have a workforce that rightly takes pride in its Yankee ingenuity and work ethic. Our state is home to main streets and downtowns that are natural community hubs and economic engines. And the small businesses that power our state’s economy can also help pull us out of the ditch today.
Building on these strengths — our workforce, our downtowns, and our small businesses — we can grow our economy and our middle class.
And so, this jobs committee will tackle our workforce skills gap. In the next five years, four-thousand jobs will be unfilled, just because of a mismatch between worker skills and employer needs. This is an area where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground and build new public-private partnerships.
The committee will also work to revitalize our downtowns: our historic mill towns and ports, our gateways to Canada and Katahdin, our centers of enterprise and exchange. The high-tech export firm I work for chose Main Street in Richmond because of its sidewalks, storefronts and services. A friend’s business chose Belfast because of its convenience, community, and quality of life. A new sign on the highway may be a start, but it takes a vibrant community to make a business owner want to set up shop and make long-term investments.
Third, the jobs committee will focus on small businesses, which are 95% of all our businesses. We will look for ways to help small businesses lower costs, modernize, benefit from public and private research and development, to scale up, and compete in the global economy.
These are solid, positive ways to grow our middle class. They contrast to the policies pursued by Governor LePage. Earlier this week, for instance, Fitch Ratings announced a downgrade of Maine’s credit rating. Three concerns cited were the Governor’s unpaid bill for over $400 million in tax breaks largely for the wealthy – a bill he now proposes to shift to local communities and homeowners – the contentious tone he has set in Augusta, and the overall economic downturn since he took office.
The news was sobering, but not surprising. It was a reminder that there are consequences for our actions and attitudes in Augusta, and that there has never been a better time to put Maine back to work.
That’s why Democrats are seeking meaningful job-related investment – in areas like research and development and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
In contrast, the governor would borrow a hundred million dollars to build a new prison and pay other debt by borrowing more money secured by future liquor sales. More prison beds, cheaper alcohol, and more borrowing from Wall Street do not make a plan that helps Main Street or Maine compete.
Meanwhile, the Governor still has not released more than a hundred million dollars in voter-approved bonds that should be putting Mainers to work today. These bonds would support jobs in transportation, higher education construction and clean water improvements with up to a five-to-one federal match.
Maine people have sent us a clear message: get the economy moving again and strengthen the middle class. That is the mission of the bipartisan Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future.
This is Representative Seth Berry. Thank you for listening. Have a wonderful weekend.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Weekly Address of Gov. Paul LePage: MMA Revenue Sharing Cut Info “Not Accurate, Completely Self-Serving”
(Note: The stress within today’s share is mine and not as was sent out to media by the Governor’s office. ~AP)
Maine is in the middle of a cold spell. With rising prices for heating oil, Mainers are spending more to fill their tanks to keep warm this winter. Gas, groceries, and the basic necessities are increasing forcing Maine families to manage tight budgets.
Furthermore, the federal government takes more from your paycheck. The average family is paying 1000 dollars more in payroll taxes.
I believe Mainers should be able to keep more of their hard-eared money. That’s why I have lowered taxes for the majority of Mainers. 70,000 low income Mainers will not pay income tax this year, and families making an average income of 48-thousand dollars will have about 300 dollars more for their budget.
We simply cannot tax our way to recovery. We cannot continue to increase taxes to fix our welfare problem. And we cannot spend money we do not have.
So-called stimulus dollars from the federal government, or what I consider federal welfare, are gone. Matching funds are being cut. Maine stands to lose $40 million in federal funding for Medicaid in the next two years.
However, we must find a way to pay our bills. We must protect the most vulnerable. The bottom line is we must be frugal with tax dollars and get the best value from the limited resources.
Over the past few weeks, you’ve heard much from the loyal opposition about what they don’t like about my budget proposal, but let me be clear – you haven’t heard any solutions from them.
One of the more challenging pieces to balance the budget is the temporary elimination of revenue sharing to communities.
Unfortunately, information distributed by the Maine Municipal Association is not accurate and completely self-serving. MMA claims that municipalities will lose 284 million over the next two years. What they don’t tell you is in previous years revenue sharing has never been fully funded dating back to my predecessor. While I would like to share more money with towns and cities, we simply do not have it.
In an effort to provide Mainers with an accurate picture of the impact to community budgets we’ve done an analysis. For example, the City of Portland’s budget last year was $291 million. Reducing all of its revenue sharing funding based on past practices amounts to 6 million dollars. This equals 2 percent of the overall city budget.
Last year, Bangor’s budget was about $144 million. The State provided three and a half million – or 3 percent of its budget.
Waterville’s share of State revenue is about 4 percent of its total budget of nearly $41 million. As Mayor of Waterville for 8 years, I was able to balance budgets, while reducing property taxes. Working together with a Democratic City Council, I was able to reduce spending and lower taxes. A temporary loss in revenue sharing does not mean that property taxes will automatically go up. That is a local choice.
It is not impossible for local government to save money, consolidate services and identify priorities. If revenue sharing makes up as little as 2 to 4 percent of community budgets, it is reasonable to request local officials to find alternatives. These are difficult times, we must work together to move Maine forward.
There are many towns and cities across our State that can consolidate services and save money. For instance, Fairfield, Oakland, Waterville and Winslow all are within a 5 mile radius. Each has their own fire and police, schools, public works personnel along with many other duplicative services. Combined these communities are approximately the size of Lewiston.
There are ways for communities to work together. However, home rule or choosing to go at it alone is an expensive choice.
Unfortunately, I do not have many popular options when it comes to balancing a budget. The recent downgrade from Fitch was based primarily on Maine’s growing welfare costs and not paying its bills. The federal government compounds our financial challenges with little flexibility and less funding every year.
Whether it’s the state or federal budget, it’s obvious – times are tough and hard choices need to be made. Until the Legislature makes long-term fixes to welfare in our State our financial problems will continue.
My proposal isn’t perfect, but I am confident it will get us through this crisis.
Thank you for listening.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(Originally posted on Dirigo Blue, 5/25/11. ~AP)
“Two Maines”: Health Care, New Taxes and the Marginalization of Rural Maine
By Troy Haines
As people living in Rural Maine, we have a shared understanding of our place in the politics of this state. We know that the way of life we enjoy is second to none, but that somehow we are considered to be less important, or perhaps less impactful than the urban centers in Maine. We know that the idea of “Two Maines” is very much prevalent in the minds of most Mainers, but we differ in that we prefer the rural way of life. Therefore it is a hard pill to swallow when our elected officials choose to pass legislation that makes it increasingly difficult to live in rural areas of Maine that are already economically depressed.
In the past, this attitude has manifested itself in the form of legislators from urban centers ignoring or failing to support legislation that benefits rural Maine, or passing legislation that negatively impacts rural Maine, simply because the disproportionate amount of representation in urban centers allow them to do so (Portland is 22 square miles and has 8 representatives, Aroostook is 7,000 square miles and has 9 representatives).
This is no longer the case. We now find ourselves facing legislation that makes it nearly impossible to live in rural Maine that is supported by our own representatives. It is now the people we elected to represent us who are furthering the lobbyist driven urban agenda to our detriment and seeing to it that it is nearly impossible to maintain the way of life we enjoy.
The examples of this occurring during this administration are myriad (pro-foreign logging legislation, roll-backs of child labor laws and the elimination of revenue sharing with rural Maine in the budget to name a few), but no one instance has been so unabashedly anti-rural Maine as the discussion (or lack thereof) and passage of LD1333, the now infamous “Health Insurance” bill.
Let’s examine these provisions and how they affect different groups, point by point:
The bill allows insurers to charge 3 times as much for people over the age of 48. People in “hazardous” positions can now be charged 5 times as much for their insurance. Farm work, mill work, logging and many of the other jobs that factor heavily into the economy of rural Maine will be subject to this. The bill allows the insurance industry to decide what positions fall under these provisions with no oversight. Worst of all people living in rural Maine can be charged unlimited increases based solely on the fact that they live in rural Maine. In addition to this insurers can require their policy holders to travel any distance they see fit for care. Under the new law insurers can require a patient in Fort Kent to travel to Portland to see a doctor, and refuse to pay if that patient chooses a provider closer to home. This bill eliminates many consumer protections Mainers currently have. Once the bill is implemented, insurers can drop you if you get sick, can deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions and can decide if they want to cover an illness or injury based solely on whether they want to pay the bill. These are all things that they can’t do under current Maine law. LD1333 also eliminates the power of the Superintendant of Insurance to block rate increases. Since March of 2009 Anthem alone has asked for increases totaling more than 50%, in the same period that they enjoyed some of the largest profits they have ever had. Maine’s Insurance Superintendant, Mila Kofman, denied them this increase. Since the passage of 1333, she has resigned. Under the new law their rate increases cannot be denied. This law creates 24 million in new taxes on all Mainers who currently have coverage (with the exception of legislators. They exempted themselves from the new tax), this from an administration and representatives who pledged not to create new taxes. The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that rates for individual policy holders in Aroostook County will increase by 19%, and group policies by 17% (source: MECEP “Health Plan Winners and Losers”). Many people who are currently covered by their employers will be dropped because businesses will no longer be able to afford to cover them. In fact nearly every segment of Maine’s population will see increases. The only reductions will occur in and around Portland.
Who are the legislators who are marginalizing rural Maine? Every single Republican legislator from Aroostook County voted for this bill that increases our premiums by one fifth and results in loss of coverage for thousands, as did every Republican legislator, rural and urban alike, throughout the state.
They spent only nine days debating this bill. In fact, Pat Flood (R-Winthrop) resigned his appropriations chairmanship over the unethical way in which this bill was rammed through. Contrasted with the fact that they spent 52 days debating and passing a bill to make whoopee pies “Maine’s Official Confection”, you can see that they failed us in their approach of such a substantial bill.
The basis for supporting this bill has come largely from the fact that Idaho has instituted a similar system. Publicly Republicans have stated time and again that our system should look like the one Idaho recently introduced. What they have failed to mention is that Idaho’s system has collapsed as a result of the changes. Costs have significantly increased and thousands of Idaho citizens have lost their insurance.
This bill is not good for anyone. It’s not good for patients or providers. It’s not good for hospitals or administrators, for large businesses or small. It benefits no one except insurance companies. Starting in 2014, Federal law will prohibit insurance companies from arbitrarily increasing rates. All this bill accomplishes is allowing those companies to significantly elevate their rates ahead of this deadline to insure maximized profits at the expense of Maine citizens.
With this so obviously being the case, why did we end up with such a bad bill being passed? Perhaps it’s because no other bill in this session has been so intensely lobbied. Insurance companies spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying this bill, and in the end their return will be significant.
In places like Aroostook County, we need legislators with strong voices who will protect and further our way of life. We certainly can’t survive our own elected officials passing legislation designed to increase insurance industry profits at the expense of the elderly, the hard working, and rural Mainers.
Troy Haines is the chair of the Aroostook County Democratic Committee. He can be reached at 1-207-551-1301 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(UPDATED) Barack H. Obama, Sworn in as 44th President of the United States, Addresses the Nation (VIDEO; Transcript)
INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
United States Capitol
11:55 A.M. EST
- THE PRESIDENT: Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice,
members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.) The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
And for more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people. (Applause.)
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together. (Applause.)
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. (Applause.) For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.
We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. (Applause.) Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. (Applause.) Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends — and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. (Applause.)
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. (Applause.)
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- (applause) — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity — (applause) — until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. (Applause.)
For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. (Applause.) We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)
Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America. (Applause.)
END 12:10 P.M. ESTRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Address by Asst Majority Leader Sen. Troy Jackson (Allagash): LePage Budget A Tax Shift, Passes Buck Onto Towns, Middle Class
For more than two years—since Paul LePage began laying out his policies as Governor, Democrats have consistently said the same thing: Governor LePage’s policies pick winners and losers. And when they lose, they lose big.
Good Morning. This is Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash.
Late last week, the Governor unveiled his proposed budget. A budget rife with an extreme political agenda and one that illustrates his priorities and choices.
Lawmakers have poured over more than 900 pages of the Governor’s budget plan to understand the drastic implications. Here’s what we know:
The Governor has dumped more than $420 million dollars worth of problems on to our local towns and cities.
He’s laid out a plan that will choke Maine’s financially strapped towns by shifting the financial burden on to them by withholding nearly $300 million in “revenue sharing” dollars from Maine’s towns.
He is forcing local selectboards and city councils across our state to do things like cut essential town services—police, fire, and rescue. Or, force them to raise property taxes—in some cases as much as 30 percent. Or, maybe, towns will have to do both. In fact, the City Administrator for Lewiston, said that in his town, property taxes could go up as much as $300 a year for an owner of a $150,000 house as a result of the governor’s choice to eliminate revenue sharing.
And at a time when Maine’s economy is still sluggish, a time when more than 50,000 Mainers are still out of work, we have to question whether the Governor’s choices will only further spiral our local economy?
One thing is for sure, it does not seem like good common-sense to take away property tax relief programs like the Homestead exemption and circuit breaker program. These programs have provided tax relief to more than 200,000 Maine households. Everyone has to live somewhere. And when the Governor suggests that Mainers should take on an additional property tax burden and also take away responsible programs that help them—he must not get it. He must not understand the tremendous stress and pressure most people face when trying to pay their bills and stay in their homes.
Governor LePage wants to talk about responsible and efficient government. But by shifting the costs to our towns, he’s merely passing the buck. This is not responsible— nor is it efficient.
There will always be many different opinions about the best way to balance a budget, but nearly all of us can agree that a massive tax shift on to our middle class, small businesses, communities, elderly and the poor is a poor choice.
It’s not responsible. It’s not fair. And some may even say that the budget looks like he’s helping his friends and punishing his enemies.
Maine needs a budget that strengthens our towns and will get our economy moving. Democrats believe we need a balanced and responsible budget that won’t undercut our state’s economy or harm our effort to grow the middle class.
This budget has a long way to go. I don’t envy the task of my colleagues on the Appropriations committee. But I encourage all of you out there to pay attention. The next few weeks and months are critical. There will be opportunities for you to weigh in and tell lawmakers in Augusta about your priorities.
Do you agree with the Governor’s decision to gut the Drugs for the Elderly program and the Medicare Savings Plan? Together these programs help nearly 35,000 seniors pay for their life saving medications and afford the copays to their doctor.
I want to pass along to you, a question posed by my Senate colleague Dawn Hill during this week’s Appropriations meeting, she asked: What alternatives do our seniors have to make up for the cuts to these programs. We know they can’t go back to work to pay for their medication. The LePage administration replied, “there are no alternatives.”
Thank you for listening. This is Assistant Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a good weekend— and please take a moment to reflect on the good work of Dr. Martin Luther King. His dedication to the civil rights movement has made our country a better place— and us better people.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The first of a weekly “open topic” media availability opportunity for all press to meet with members of the Maine Democratic Majority Leadership from both chambers. Conferences also include call-in capabilities, for those members of the press unable to attend in person. This was recorded yesterday afternoon in President Alfond’s office.
From left to right: House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham), Senate President Justin Alfond (Portland), Speaker of the House Mark Eves (North Berwick) and Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Weekly Democratic Radio Address by Speaker Mark Eves (Berwick): Calling for focus on strengthening Maine’s economy, growing middle class
It is truly an honor to serve the people of Maine. This week the newly elected legislature officially began its work.
The challenges before us are great.
We face a sluggish Maine economy with 50,000 Maine people still out of work. While many states in the country are recovering from the recession, Maine’s economy has slipped backwards.
Maine was the only state in New England where the economy shrank last year and we were one of three states in the nation to have revenues fall below projections.
We must do better.
While we face this significant economic challenge, we must also address our ongoing budget challenges. Governor LePage released his budget proposal yesterday and we are deeply concerned that it will further damage Maine’s economy and our efforts to strengthen and grow the middle class.
We need solutions that truly reform government and make it work better for the people. We need a budget that invests in education, job creation, healthy families, and lowering our energy costs. This is what will get our economy back on track. This is real fiscal responsibility, and it’s just common sense.
We can’t cut our way to prosperity. We must outline a vision for economic growth in our state. That means developing:
- Maine’s workforce,
- Strengthening Maine’s public schools,
- Lowering health care and energy costs for more Maine families and small businesses, and
- Investing in Maine’s future through research and development and roads and bridges.
We must work to put more money in the pockets of Maine families and small businesses – so they can spend it locally and help create jobs on our Main Streets.
We have a lot of work to do. There is no doubt. But we knew that when we signed up for the job. And it is what the people of Maine need us to do. To get things done, we must work together. The challenges we face are too big for one party to solve alone.
We need to come together in order to solve our problems. We must do better, and if everyone pitches in, we can make Maine a better state.
We want to work with our Republicans colleague in the legislature and the Governor to move Maine forward. While we might not always agree, we will always seek common ground to strengthen the economy and grow the middle class.
Thank you for listening; I’m Speaker Mark Eves from North Berwick.
(Note: Per a Facebook update from Senate President Justin Alfond this morning, the Governor and his staff are meeting with leadership at 2pm today to discuss the budget.)
These are challenging and difficult times. Our State is facing a fiscal crisis and we need to examine our spending practices, evaluate the delivery of services and gain control of our welfare system. Maine’s economic security and future is at stake and we must make hard choices so we do not leave our children with unmanageable debt.
My challenge as Governor – and our challenge as a State – is to find ways to help Maine families prosper, improve the business climate, foster better educational opportunities while still protecting the most vulnerable.
Maine, like many States, is facing additional hardship because of the sluggish national economy and the burden felt from deep cuts from the federal government. Maine already has one of the highest tax burdens, so it is imperative, as we go through the budget process, that we resist the option of raising taxes on hardworking Mainers.
The federal government established many of the welfare programs that Maine people are enrolled in. States were enticed to participate by high federal match rates that subsidize the cost. But now with the feds debt load, above $16 trillion, matching funds for programs like Medicaid are being reduced, placing an added weight on the backs of Maine taxpayers.
For all the talk of stimulus from the federal government, the fact is that they are putting Maine in deeper debt. Maine must find its own path through this crisis. We must bring our spending in line with our revenues.
My budget proposal before lawmakers includes necessary reforms and achieves a budget that meets the needs of people while protecting our financial and economic security. This budget minimizes impact to education. It is an opportunity to redesign programs and right-size government. It also allows us to gain control of how we spend money and make necessary systemic changes.
This problem did not develop overnight and cannot be fixed overnight. The process to overhaul and review our welfare programs to something we can afford is an enormous and unpleasant task. However, getting our fiscal house in order is a necessary step in creating a better business climate with good paying jobs with higher wages. Because we are faced with a severe budget situation and rising welfare costs, we need to work together to do what is in the best interest of the Maine people.
Nearly eighty-percent of taxpayer money is allocated to two departments: health and human services and education and skyrocketing costs in these two areas affect other agencies and valuable programs.
For example, in the past decade, the state share of welfare spending has grown from nearly $500 million in 2002 to $1 billion in 2012. That is unsustainable.
Two years ago, this administration made it a priority to invest an additional $63 million into education. This year – though general purpose aid to schools is still higher than when I took office, we have had to make cuts.
While the federal government has not had a real budget in years, as Governor I am responsible for ensuring Maine has a balanced budget. This has meant State government has had to tighten its belt significantly. Local municipalities must do the same. Towns and cities will feel the effects of this budget through a temporary loss of revenue sharing. I commit to you here that we will restore revenue share as soon as this economy improves.
The State has made considerable efforts over the past two years to help municipalities stay afloat during the most challenging fiscal time since the Great Depression. However, the loss in revenue sharing in this proposed budget is a reflection of growth in welfare in Maine.
We made difficult choices to balance this budget. Some worthwhile programs are not funded – some have seen major reductions – and we’ve prioritized your tax dollars on maintaining a safety net for the most vulnerable.
In our continued effort to right-size state government, this proposal eliminates about two-hundred state jobs and seeks to achieve an additional $30 million in savings by eliminating the lowest-value programs.
We’ve modified tax exemption programs like Circuit Breaker and the Homestead tax exemption to focus on the elderly and on veterans who serve our country.
There is no doubt about it – while there are a few bright spots in this budget, these were not easy decisions to make. But in the long-run, these choices are necessary to protect the future of our children and grandchildren, and create a plan for spending your tax dollars that is fiscally responsible and will set us on the path to recovery.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Remarks of Janet T. Mills
Sworn in as Maine’s 57th Attorney General
Monday, January 7, 2013
Gov. LePage, Chief Justice Saufley, President Alfond, Speaker Eves, legislators, distinguished guests, it is a honor to stand before you today and to once again take the oath of office to serve as Maine’s Attorney General.
I want to acknowledge my husband, Stan, and three of my stepdaughters, Lisl, Coleen and Tammy and three wonderful grandsons who are here today.
I am grateful and humbled by the faith that you have shown in me.
Today, I’m living proof that Maine genuinely believes in recycling.
But as I stand here, having taken this solemn oath, I’m pondering a serious question, a legal quagmire…
If in 2009 I was the first Attorney General from Franklin County, am I now the second?
If, four years ago, I was the first woman to serve as Attorney General, am I now the second as well?
I was Attorney General number 55. Now I’m number 57. That’s it.
I am very grateful. And I’m ready to get to work.
Nearly a hundred years ago a man named William Robinson Pattangall took the oath to become the 34th Attorney General. A native of Pembroke and former mayor of Waterville, Pattangall had also served before. He was also number 32. It was his second time around after an unplanned vacation. Like me, life had given him another chance. And he was successful in many ways. Like Pattangall, I too have found that absence made the job grow fonder.
We’ll have to call this the “Pattangall Pattern,” a tradition of sorts.
Every hundred years or so the Attorney General will take a break, come back and serve again, with renewed vigor and commitment.
Some things are better the second time around –
Returning students often get higher grades.
Second marriages may last longer than the first.
Lawmakers who come back here look at things differently.
They know that the wheel does not always have to be reinvented. And that friction keeps the wheel turning, but that too much friction can bring it to a sudden stop.
Those who remember 1991 and 1992 remember what sparks flew and how putting the brakes on state government did little to move our state forward.
My time off has been interesting, my sabbatical fulfilling. For two years, as in years before, I’ve represented clients from all walks of life. I’ve litigated everything from property taxation and criminal matters to human rights cases and multi million dollar commercial disputes.
Yet I have hungered to return to a position which everyone from Frank Bellotti to Steve Rowe to Bill Clinton, from Jim Tierney to Justice David Souter have often called the “best job they ever had” – Attorney General of their state.
And I hope my return brings more wisdom than cynicism. More insight than mere boldness or bravado.
During my time away, I have also traveled the length and breadth of Maine and talked with thousands of people in their homes and businesses, at their local diners, at Saturday night suppers and hunters’ breakfasts. I’ve heard their dreams, listened to their fears, and felt their hunger for opportunity.
As we all know, opportunity and achievement are not straight lines.
Some of us are blessed with second chances.
No one knows this better than our Governor, Paul LePage.
And as I take this office for the second time, it’s important to remember just what role the Attorney General plays in ensuring opportunity for Maine people.
The Attorney General gives guidance and advice to the executive and legislative branches and defends the state against lawsuits.
The office protects small businesses from great monopolies and fights against illegal business practices.
It protects consumers against fraud, families against domestic violence, it stands up for children and against poverty.
It helps protect the elderly from abuse.
It prosecutes homicides and protects medical privacy.
It helps preserve the legacy of Gov. Percival Baxter and the 209,000 acres of wilderness that are one of Maine’s finest natural treasures.
Most importantly, the Attorney General represents the people, not just the machinery of the state bureaucracy.
The hallmark of the Attorney General’s Office is its “Independence.”
That independence gives the AG the authority – indeed the responsibility – to ensure opportunity and second chances for the people of our state.
To me, opportunity for Maine people means:
Safety in their homes
Security in their workplaces
The freedom to earn a living, to compete and survive in business and to support a family in the toughest of times.
A place to rest your head at night, with fuel in the furnace, wood in the stove,
Clean air to breathe, water to drink, lands to till. Safe food to eat.
The right to grow old with proper care and financial security.
The right to vote without intimidation.
Freedom from discrimination and disease, addiction or unconscionable debt.
Free and public learning at a public school as provided in our Constitution.
And a government, up and down the line, that treasures integrity, compassion and true transparency.
In short, the Office of the Attorney General is the guarantor of personal liberties for many, the protector of public safety for all, the face of the state, an advocate for its values, and the voice of the people before the highest courts in the land.
This means representing all the people, not one party or the other, not carrying the banner for one administration or another.
And I take that responsibility seriously.
As we begin our work, I know that we will not always agree on the course our state should take. Achieving true opportunity means disagreeing about the means. It means creating friction, sometimes. It means that the wheels of democracy turn at different speeds on different tracks.
But it means debating, talking and listening to each other.
It shouldn’t be hard though, because we are Mainers. We recognize, as Thomas Jefferson said, that “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”
We will debate solutions, programs, strategies, rules, budgets and bills. And at times those discussions will be heated.
We love and live in the same state.
We find comfort and sport in the same woods and streams.
We enjoy the noisy gaiety and busy-ness of the same cities.
We watch the same big rivers muscling their way throug fertile fields under big moons and marshmallow skies.
We love the same majestic ridges of the rough and revered Katahdin, the long serene Bigelows, the friendly slopes of Sugarloaf and Saddleback.
We work and play in the same ocean, busting up against the same independent craggy shores.
We are citizens of the same society.
We are the caretakers of this precious state.
We have to care for it and for each other.
We live by the same light, breathe the same air, suffer under the same times of darkness.
So much brings us together, so much more than that which divides us.
So let us get down to business.
Let us make the second time around the best time around.
Let us make our home a state of safety and a place for second chances… not just for present company, but for every beloved citizen of the great State of Maine.
Thank you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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