Archive for February, 2015

Maine Sovereign Citizens Merletti, McCarthy Resurface as Part of “LePage Vs Mills” Judicial Case

Posted on February 26, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Wayne Leach, an unnamed supporter and Phil Merletti in the Hall of Flags, 1/8/15.

Wayne Leach, an unnamed supporter and Phil Merletti in the Hall of Flags, 1/8/15.

On the day that Governor Paul LePage swore Maine’s three constitutional officers into office (albeit breaking from modern day tradition with two behind closed doors in his cabinet room and the third publicly in the Hall of Flags), there were a few other people of note outside the governor’s office and trying to get a few moments with LePage- to wit, his chums Phil Merletti and Wayne Leach.

You remember… the ones, along with Aroostook Watchman Jack McCarthy that Mike Tipping made famous last year? Here’s a timeline to refresh your memory.

IMG_2872Anyhoo… seems that a little birdie told these fellas that they would be well served to submit an amicus brief to the Maine Supreme Court, as part of Governor LePage’s going to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to squeal on the oh so very mean Attorney General Janet Mills, who won’t let Paul play with all the toys.

He hasn’t been so mad since the Legislative Council made him move his TV from behind the stairs!

But back to Merletti and McCarthy, because there is more than a dash of irony in them filing the papers in the first place. As was questioned by Portland Press Herald’s Greg Kasich: “Do they recognize the supreme court?”

It is a wonder, to be sure. But see for yourselves!

Here are the entire proceedings, as shared on the State of Maine Judicial Branch “Governor’s Request for Opinion of the Justices” page of the case. Click on “Brief of Lise McLain and Dorothy Lafortune”, to find where Merletti and McCarthy pop up.

Now this is where the legal clown car gets a tad crowded- the above “Motion for leave to participate in the oral argument“. Merletti and McCarthy asserted today in court that their vast experience as researchers is required by the Court, for the Court to fully understand the case. Needless to say, this motion was summarily denied by the Court.

Indeed, Justice is blind.

(To be updated)

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(UPDATED) Public Responds to LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 2): Municipal Revenue Sharing

Posted on February 19, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Here is a clip of Bangor’s Ben Sprague providing similar testimony to Appropriations against revenue sharing elimination in 2014.

The 127th Maine Legislature’s Appropriation and Financial Affairs standing committee on Wednesday heard more from the public on the second day of scheduled testimony on the FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal put forth by the LePage administration last month. Governor LePage and his new Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Director, Auburn Mayor Jonathon Labonte, held a public town hall in Westbrook last week to discuss the proposal.

AFA Committee member Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) asks a question of DAFS Commissioner Rosen, as Rep. Linda Sanborn, Sen. Linda Valentino, House Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo and Rep. John Martin look on.

AFA Committee member Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) asks a question of DAFS Commissioner Rosen, as Rep. Linda Sanborn, Sen. Linda Valentino, House Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo and Rep. John Martin look on.

Day 2 was focused on how the proposed elimination of municipal revenue sharing, a hot topic in the last legislative session, would adversely affect local budgets and force towns across the state to either cut services or raise property taxes. Many communities have already had to make drastic cuts due to the previous budget’s 32% revenue sharing slashes.

The following statements were part of a press release sent out by Maine House and Senate Democrats late Wednesday.

    Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations Committee: “The state cannot turn its back on local communities. Today we heard about the devastating impact that the elimination of these funds will have on schools, emergency services and property taxpayers, especially seniors trying to get by on fixed incomes and young families. We owe it to our towns and their residents and small businesses to protect these vital funds.”

    Appropriations Committee member Senator Linda Valentino (D-Saco): “We heard repeatedly from town officials across our state that the cuts to revenue sharing are detrimental and miss the mark. We should be looking for ways to reduce property taxes, not shift additional taxes on to homeowners. It was very disconcerting to hear from rural towns about the dire impact revenue sharing elimination would have on their communities since they have nowhere to turn like taxing non-profits as proposed by Governor LePage. No community should have to choose between underfunding and understaffing our public works or police departments in place of rising property taxes.”

    Winslow Town Councilor Ken Fletcher, a former lawmaker and LePage’s former energy chief, testified that the elimination of revenue sharing would result in the loss of approximately $940,000 – an amount that is greater that the town’s public works, police or fire budgets. He expressed concern about the increase in the property tax burden that would result from the loss of revenue sharing and the governor’s proposed elimination of the Homestead Exemption for those under 65.

    “It is generally accepted that property taxes are the most regressive of the three primary tax methods. Please do not place more of a burden on Maine homeowners by underfunding Revenue Sharing and eliminating the Homestead Exemption,”
    Fletcher said in his testimony.

    “Small rural communities like ours don’t have plush budgets. We don’t have administrators. We have no ‘rainy day’ funds,” Perry First Selectman Karen Raye said in written testimony presented to the committees. “People are angry at their increased property tax bills. This is only going to make the situation worse.”

Here are more statements from municipal employees around the state as reported by various Maine media sources:

    Brownville Town Manager Matthew Pineo: “There is no need to keep playing shell games (referencing LePage proposal to let towns tax large nonprofits). I’m in a poor community. We do not have money. I don’t have any taxable charities in my town.”

    Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments: ‘There’s already significant regional collaboration on emergency response, dispatch, solid waste management, and there has been for many years. (If revenue sharing is eliminated) Taxes will go up or services will go down. There is no padding left in rural municipal budgets.”

    Kathy Littlefield, chairwoman of Waldo (town) Board of Selectman: (Doing away with revenue sharing would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the town of Waldo, which is already grappling with past cuts and rising costs for education, snow removal and other services) “If another partnership, another trust, another promise is broken, there will be no going back. There are just way too many nails.”

    Republican Bangor City Councilor David S. Nealley: “Since when do you, as Republicans, talk about taking away from the producers and redistributing the income?”

    Vincent Frallicciardi, chairman of the Madawaska Board of Selectmen: (Eliminating revenue sharing would result in the loss of $750,000 and be) “detrimental to our survival.”

    Joseph Slocum, Belfast city manager: “Does anyone in here really think these officials aren’t responsive to the concerns of local residents?”

    Town of Union employee (name unknown): “Another 10-12 hours of this [hearing] and you’ll feel like my public works drivers.”

Many thanks to Bangor City Council’s Ben Sprague for sharing his testimony.

Sprague via Twitter also provided many quotes from those testifying:

Thursday marks the third day of public hearing, so more to follow.

———

RELATED:

Public Responds To LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 1)

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Public Responds to LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 1)

Posted on February 18, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Governor LePage rolls out FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal

Governor LePage rolls out FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal

Back in January, Maine Governor Paul LePage and members of his administration presented the FY 2016-2017 biennial budget proposal to the state. Since then, various members of the administration have met with the 127th Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs standing committee (with other committees, as applicable) on multiple occasions, met with the public, and held numerous press conferences to sway not just members of the public but also their own party to support the proposals.

Now, it is the public’s turn to speak up. Maine House Democrats shared the following summarized testimony presented to the committee on Tuesday.

    Adam Lee, Lee Auto Malls: “The idea of lowering the tax rate for the wealthiest members of society is misguided…When my taxes are lowered it leaves less to be distributed to the municipalities. I get a tax cut and everyone else in town gets to chip in to pay for it through higher property taxes. Doesn’t sound fair? It isn’t…. My business depends on a strong middle class. I sell good old fashioned Dodges, GMC trucks, Nissans, and used cars, as well as other brands. A strong middle class is not helped by tax breaks for the rich. Competitive rates, and tax breaks for the middle class is much more useful. A skilled workforce is the one of the single largest factors determining where a business locates. Invest in education, training, our University and community College System.”

    Veteran and Nurse Richard Bissell of Bangor: “I’m here to oppose these drastic cuts proposed by the Governor for wealthy Mainers and corporations, especially when those cuts come at the expense of the middle class and poor Mainers…Property taxes are an impossible cost for many Mainers, from young couples and families that are in their first home up to seniors try to age in their homes.”

    Small Business Owner Carson Lynch of Gorham Grind: “This plan would cut taxes for the very wealthy while effectively raising taxes on the lower and middle income Mainers. Not only is this morally wrong, it will hurt Maine small businesses and ship money out of state….My small business runs on very small margins. I’m not a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. A change to Maine’s tax code could make or break my business.”

    Clam Digger Skip Worcester of Hermon: “I’m here today because I am deeply concerned with the Governor’s proposed cuts to income and corporate taxes in Maine…Corporations are making record profits in Maine but they are not paying their fair share in taxes – their taxes have been less and less and their profits have been higher and higher, it’s the reverse for us middle and lower classes. Our wages have stayed practically the same while the cost of living, heating and eating have gone up.”

Among others who spoke to the committee was Davida Ammerman of Madison, whose testimony is below.

    Representative Rotundo, Senator Hamper, Representative Goode, and Senator McCormick, thank you for having me here today to speak with you.

    I am here today to ask you to oppose the cuts to corporate and income tax in the Governor’s proposed budget. With this proposal, we will see the divisions increase between rural areas that are not so affluent and able to carry the cost, am\nd more affluent ones that will. In a town like Madison where I live, the option to tax non-profits is not a viable source of revenue, forcing the town to increase property taxes to continue being viable.

    Without a fair and balanced budget we will be forcing older people to lose their homes, and rural town are going to have a hard time keeping up with basic services like roads, law enforcement, and schools. Being on fixed income, it is hard to be able to conceive of paying more in sales and property taxes, and for the increase in services that I will need as I age. The Governor’s proposal puts revenue at recession era levels, and it doesn’t add up so that means we are going to see more cuts at the state level in future years. This creates a huge amount of uncertainty for us aging Mainers- we don’t know what we can count on. I don’t know that I will be able to keep my house, or if I will be able to pass it on to my children as planned.

    On the other end this is going to be very hard and discouraging for young people in Maine as well. Our daughter, a single mom just barely making ends meet, would have to sell her house that she has worked so hard to get if her property taxes go, if the Homestead Exemption is cut for Mainers under 65, and she loses the chance to deduct her mortgage payment. Young kids that are already fighting student loans and low wages will lose their chance to get ahead. So many kids are just getting by already- this is making the American Dream even more unattainable.

    If we are going to start taxing non-profits and cutting so many programs in the state budget, how is that going to affect funding homeless shelters and other organizations providing services for people who are just barely getting by and depending on these services for life support?

    I hate to see the American Dream being put out of reach for so many of the population.

    Thank You.

Quinn Gormley of Portland was kind enough to share her prepared testimony as well:

    My name is Quinn Gormley. I’m currently an undergraduate student at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, but I grew up in Damariscotta, where my father, a bus driver, and my mother, the director of our local library, still live and work today.

    For most of my life, my family has proudly belonged to the working class in this state. Growing up, my parents taught me the value of a hard day’s work, as my mother pulled sixty or more hour weeks, often with little to no pay, to keep the doors of the library open, and as my dad, who for my entire life has had to balance three different jobs just to help us make ends meet, waking up at 5 in the morning to drive a school bus, and often working late into the evening to get everything done.

    During the recession we were lucky. A school always needs bus drivers, and the library is valued by our community, so my parents managed to keep their jobs. Many in our town were not so lucky. And I so, as I read the details of this new budget, I am concerned. I am concerned that this budget is shifting the burden onto Middle Class families and families like my own are not going to be able to afford it.

    As a student who is used to examining things critically, when I look at this budget, I see the governor’s tax cuts as forced false choices that prioritize income and estate tax cuts for Maine’s wealthiest individuals and large corporations at the expense of property tax relief for families like my own.

    Every dollar in tax cuts is a dollar that will have to be made up for with spending cuts. It just doesn’t make sense to prioritize tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations and leave the school bus drivers and librarians to fend for their own.

    As I navigate college with the hope to stay in Maine once I graduate, this budget does not seem to pave the way for a state with increased job growth, in contrast, states that have pursued this path in recent years have actually seen worse, not better, economic performance than neighboring states. They’ve had to cut state investments in education, and workforce training. I want to stay, work, and live in Maine but when my state pushes policies that hurt education, job training, and the middle class, I doubt that I can.

    This budget is the wrong path for Maine. It benefits a small percentage of Mainer’s, and the costs will be passed onto those hard working Mainers who are just trying to make it work. And so, I urge you; please oppose the cuts to corporate and income tax in this proposed budget. Thank you for your attention and all you do.

Democrats on the AFA committee later released their own statements:

    Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee: “We haven’t been getting the the full story about Governor LePage’s budget. I’m deeply concerned that the ratcheting down of state revenues in the out years will mean fewer dollars in the future for workforce development, education, and many of the very things businesses and workers say we need to succeed. We want a tax reform plan that is paid for now and in the future so we don’t jeopardize our support for Maine families, our schools, or workforce, or for our local firefighters and police.”

    Senator Linda Valentino (Saco): “I support tax reform but this budget sidelines Maine families at the expense of the wealthy and big corporations. We heard a lot of concerns from people today about the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, the Homestead exemption, and the property tax deduction. If these deductions are eliminated, it will jeopardize Maine’s economic recovery.”

Maine Center for Economic Policy released the following reactions to the budget proposal and information. MECEP economist Joel Johnson’s full testimony can be found here. But these portions jump out:

MECEP economist Joel Johnson speaks before joint AFA, Taxation committees

MECEP economist Joel Johnson speaks before joint AFA, Taxation committees

    The combined fiscal impact of these tax cuts in FY 2019 is about $677 million per year, according to Maine Revenue Services. That’s a tax cut equal to 19% of General Fund revenue forecast for that year. The sales tax increases in the Governor’s budget don’t cover the cost of that tax cut, and as a result, the state must cut spending by $266 million in FY 2019. That spending cut will grow into subsequent fiscal years as the corporate income tax cut fully phases in.

    Approximately $167 million of the governor’s proposed spending cuts will come in the form of the elimination of revenue sharing to towns and cities. Faced with a loss of revenue sharing and struggling to meet obligations to fund K-12 education, state and local governments will have to raise taxes and/or cut spending. That means higher taxes and/or fewer services like snowplowing, public safety, road maintenance, libraries, and parks. The governor’s proposal saves an additional $12 million by eliminating the homestead exemption for most Mainers.

    The governor’s proposal fails to specify the remaining $90 million in state spending cuts it encompasses. In fact, the Governor’s budget only specifies a two-year spending plan while proposing tax cuts that span multiple budget periods. The income and estate tax cuts proposed in the Governor’s budget, combined with revamped arbitrary limits on state appropriation growth, will prevent the state from reaching the statutorily-mandated goal of funding 55% of the cost of K-12 education in the state any time in the near future. Yet the Governor’s budget proposal includes a target of 55% for Fiscal Year 2017 and beyond. That is not a credible, achievable objective given the income and estate tax cuts included in a different section of the same budget proposal.

Other points raised by MECEP for consideration:

    1. The governor’s tax cuts aren’t paid for and are fiscally irresponsible. They set Maine up for future fiscal crises, which will lead to deep cuts to education, health care, job training, and other foundational components of a strong, sustainable economy.

    • By fiscal year 2019, the governor’s plan cuts income, estate, and corporate taxes by $690 million and raises sales and use taxes by $424 million. That leaves a shortfall of $266 million. The governor proposes to make up this shortfall, in part, by eliminating $167 million in state aid to towns for local public services. Legislators will have to make up the remaining balance by additional spending cuts beyond those that have been enacted over recent years.

    • The governor’s plan locks in recession-era levels of revenue putting state spending as a share of the economy at historic lows. That means state funding for education, health care, and other services will continue to fall behind even as the economy recovers. It also means that Maine will have virtually no capacity to absorb unanticipated future expenses or to maintain critical public investments when the next economic downturn occurs.

    2. The governor’s tax cuts force false choices and prioritize income and estate tax cuts for Maine’s wealthiest individuals and large corporations at the expense of property tax relief for middle-class Mainers.

    • Every dollar in tax cuts is a dollar that legislators will have to make up by either raising other taxes or with cuts in spending for education and other services. At a time when the state is already failing to fulfill its commitments to Maine’s students and communities it doesn’t make sense to place a higher priority on tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations. For example, eliminating the estate tax will cost over $37 million by fiscal year 2019 and benefit approximately 150 of the wealthiest estates. This potentially comes at the expense of making progress in funding K-12 education, supporting prescription drug assistance to low-income seniors, maintaining cost-effective health care prevention programs, or providing college scholarships to Maine’s future workers.

    • Part of the governor’s plan includes eliminating the Homestead Exemption for Maine residents under age 65 which is equivalent to raising property taxes between $120 and $160 for hundreds of thousands of Maine families. Additional property tax increases are likely for middle-class Mainers as communities are forced to pick up more of the costs of K-12 education, public safety, and road maintenance as called for in the governor’s budget.
    • While we don’t oppose cutting taxes, we believe it can be done in a way that doesn’t force false choices and that distributes the benefits more evenly across all income groups. Because this plan doesn’t maximize opportunities to export taxes to out-of-state visitors and part-year residents and places higher priority on tax cuts that deliver the greatest benefits to wealthy individuals and large corporations, it falls short in terms of securing adequate revenue and in improving the overall fairness of Maine’s tax system.

    3. The governor’s tax plan is a failed prescription for growing Maine’s economy.

    Note: As there will be weeks of hearings and work on the budget proposal, this will be part of a series of posts. This week’s testimonies will be broken up into daily installments of the highlights.

    ———

    RELATED:

  • Sifting Through The LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DAFS Commissioner Rosen Meets With AFA
  • Sifting Through The LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: LePage, MDOT Roll Out Over $430 Million In Projects
  • Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DACF Meets With AFA, AG Committees
  • Sifting Through The LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DHHS Meets With AFA, HHS.
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AG Janet Mills Announces Record $21M Settlement from 19 State S&P Lawsuit

Posted on February 4, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Earlier today Maine Attorney General stood on the steps of the Kennebec County Courthouse to meet with press and announce that a huge chunk of money is coming our way. Via press release:

    Attorney General Janet Mills has announced the largest ever one-time settlement in Maine history. The State of Maine filed papers Wednesday with the Superior Court settling the state’s complex lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s (S&P). The lawsuit, originally filed two years ago in Kennebec Superior Court, alleged that the credit ratings giant engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with its ratings during the time leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. The settlement was negotiated in conjunction with the federal Department of Justice and 19 states and the District of Columbia. Maine will receive $21.5 million dollars for consumer protection efforts.

    The total settlement amount is $1.375 Billion. One half of the amount was paid the United States Department of Justice to settle its case. The other half was divided among the states that sued S&P. S&P is paying the Maine Office of the Attorney General $21,535,714.00, an amount commensurate with the economic harm caused by the company’s behavior and an amount which exceeds the profits from its activities, amounting to essentially a disgorgement of S&P’s ill-gotten gains. The state’s share will be directed toward consumer protection and education efforts.

Portions of her prepared statement:

DSC_0012

    “Holding S&P accountable for these practices tells Wall Street we will not tolerate acts that deceive investors and devastate our economy,” said Attorney General Mills. “As Attorney General I will continue to work to promote transparency and protect the integrity of our financial system. This settlement shows that banks did not act alone and that the Attorneys General of the states and of the United States together will pursue any entity that violates the public trust and stacks the deck against consumers and homeowners.”

Per Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti, Maine’s Consumer Protection Division Chief, the states are dividing the windfall pretty much equally, with a few exceptions receiving a slightly larger portion. More from the Justice Department:

    In its agreed statement of facts, S&P admits that its decisions on its rating models were affected by business concerns, and that, with an eye to business concerns, S&P maintained and continued to issue positive ratings on securities despite a growing awareness of quality problems with those securities. S&P acknowledges that:

    AG Janet T. Mills answers media questions at the Kennebec County Courthouse press conference. Also pictured, Asst AG Linda Conti.

    AG Janet T. Mills answers media questions at the Kennebec County Courthouse press conference. Also pictured, Asst AG Linda Conti.

    • S&P promised investors at all relevant times that its ratings must be independent and objective and must not be affected by any existing or potential business relationship;
    • S&P executives have admitted, despite its representations, that decisions about the testing and rollout of updates to S&P’s model for rating CDOs were made, at least in part, based on the effect that any update would have on S&P’s business relationship with issuers;
    • Relevant people within S&P knew in 2007 many loans in RMBS transactions S&P were rating were delinquent and that losses were probable;
    • S&P representatives continued to issue and confirm positive ratings without adjustments to reflect the negative rating actions that it expected would come.

There is ongoing similar multi-state litigation against Moody’s as well, but that is still in its preliminary stage. As such, Mills and her office were unwilling to discuss details pertaining to that case.

As for distribution of the $21M, Mills said that she intended to speak with legislative leadership and the governor’s office with recommendations for usage of the funds.

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(UPDATED) Maine Governor Paul LePage: “Illegal Immigrants” Bringing Hepatitis C, TB & HIV to Maine

Posted on February 4, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

(Updated below with the governor’s address in three video clips and text as prepared. Here is a Storify link to various reports, photos and reactions to the address on Twitter.)

A portion of last night’s State of the State address.

“We have limited resources and we have to stretch them as far as we can go. And one of the elements that has a burden in the last couple years has been those who have receiving funds, but they are here illegally. 
 
Now, am I compassionate about illegal aliens? Yes, I am. I would prefer that they do it the right way, but it’s very expensive, ’cause I’ve gone through that. We brought a young man here and we did it the right way and paid the bill.  
 
But this is the problem with some of the illegals that are here today. When a refugee comes here from a foreign country, they get a medical assessment and we know their health. But when they come here illegally, they don’t get medical assessments. 
 
And one thing that we don’t want to see is the uptick of hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis. 
 
But it is here. We are dealing with it. And it is very costly. 
 
So if nothing else, they should be getting a medical assessment when they get here.
 
And I believe that my responsibility as your governor is number one to Maine residents first and everyone else second.”

—–

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The governor’s speech as prepared.

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Maine Women’s Day Held At The State House (VIDEO, PIX)

Posted on February 2, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Members of the Coalition for Maine Women and the Maine Choice Coalition gathered at the State House to outline legislative priorities on January 20th (MORE PHOTOS HERE), as well as conduct a volunteer workshop on reproductive justice and breakout sessions on lobbying legislators, building communication skills and more.

Speakers included:

Oamishri Amarasingham (ALCU of Maine)
Claire Berkowitz, Maine Children’s Alliance
Julia Colpitts, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence
Ruth Lockhart, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center
Helen Regan, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights

    Oamshri Amarasingham, public policy counsel, ACLU of Maine: “Women constitute the fastest growing population of incarcerated people, and the number of women in Maine’s prisons has increased six-fold since 2002. Yet while the number of women in our criminal justice system has skyrocketed, our ability to provide them with appropriate conditions has failed to keep up. Ending the shackling of pregnant women will protect the health of women and their pregnancies.”

    DSC_0039Claire Berkowitz, executive director, Maine Children’s Alliance: “Child development experts have demonstrated that the most critical development of a child’s brain happens within the first five years of life. We know that our support of strong early childhood programming will not only bolster our state’s economic recovery, but provide economic security for future generations as well. Inadequate or inaccessible child care means that parents cannot obtain or maintain gainful employment, leaving them vulnerable to falling into poverty. Despite the research on its benefits to families and communities, the early childhood programming that would support Maine’s children continues to go underfunded. Today, we are calling on our elected leaders to make early childhood programming a priority this session. The future of our state depends on it.”

    Julia Colpitts, executive director, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: “Economic reality – having no money or no housing – keeps many victims of violence from leaving their abuser, and can force them to return. Having a job is a first step to independence and safety. A victim’s employment is vital to building economic security and creating safety for them and for their children. Victims who want to work, to create new and sustainable lives don’t want to lose their job or be dependent on social welfare resources. This legislation will help them be successful on that economic path to safety by retaining their right to work through the crisis of violence.”
    DSC_0035
    Ruth Lockhart, executive director, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center:
    “Women are vital to our society and economy, and when women thrive, Maine thrives. For those reasons we will oppose wrong-headed bills that take us backwards. As we have for decades, we will oppose any effort to undermine a woman’s autonomy over her own reproduction. Once again this year we will oppose any attempt to abridge our civil rights, including granting exemption from state laws based on religious objection. And we will oppose efforts that demonize people who need our help.”

    Helen Regan, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights: “Why hasn’t Maine taken advantage of an indirect, but proven way to support women in their search for job training and employment? Expansion of access to family planning services to women whose health care does not currently cover contraception will give them the tools they need to avoid unintended pregnancies known to be a huge setback for those seeking to support themselves and their families. Let’s take action that helps women help themselves.”

    More from the Maine Women’s Lobby:

    • Women are 51% of the population, but are underrepresented at every level of government where policy decisions that affect our lives are made.

    • On the first day of the new Congressional session, the majority party chose to fight for restrictions on abortion services as its top priority. And once again we need to fight bad bills in the Maine legislature that would restrict access to abortion.
    • Last year we helped defeat a dangerous bill that would have allowed people to use their religious beliefs to break laws meant to protect us all. It’s back.
    • Nearly 70,000 Maine people still can’t access the health care they need because obstructive politicians chose ideology over good health and economic common sense. But there’s still time for Maine to act.
    • Too many politicians and people in the media use stereotypes and anecdotes to talk about policies that affect women and children living in poverty rather than looking at the real people struggling to get by.
    • In Maine, more than 6 in 10 minimum wage workers are women and they need a raise.
    • More than 80% of low-wage workers can’t earn a single paid sick day – most are women who have frequent public contact in jobs such as food service, child care, elder care, and retail.
    • Only 12% of the American workforce has access to paid leave.
    • While the data overwhelmingly demonstrates the importance of early childhood programs, more than 11,000 Maine kids do not have access to Head Start due to underfunding.
    • Too many women and children still can’t live their lives free from violence.
    • Sexual assaults happen every day, and too often our culture blames the victims rather than the perpetrators.
    • Maine is the only state in New England that doesn’t have a policy against shackling pregnant inmates.
    • Maine women only earn 79 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts.

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Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Deliver over 85k Signatures to State House

Posted on February 1, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

85,185 signatures were collected and delivered by over 200 Maine Citizens for Clean Elections volunteers to Maine Department of the Secretary of State’s office on January 21 after a rally held in the State House’s Hall of Flags. The signatures, gathered since the November election, should be enough to place a ballot measure before Maine voters for establishing new campaign donor disclosure requirements and replacing the “matching funds” provision for publicly-financed candidates.

MCCE’s Andrew Bossie, BJ McCollister, Ann Luther, former State Senator Ed Youngblood (R-Brewer) and former Rumford GOP state representative candidate Jolene Lovejoy spoke to those assembled.

    Andrew Bossie: “We are here to celebrate a remarkable and important citizen-led effort to shine the light on dark money, keep politicians accountable and restore Maine’s Clean Election law. “This is an effort of, by and for Maine people. We’re here today because we want a government that works for everyday voters, not one bought and paid for by wealthy special interests. We’re here today because when our democracy is threatened, we the people, will fight to keep it strong.”

    Former State Senator Ed Youngblood (R-Brewer) speaking at MCCE rally

    Former State Senator Ed Youngblood (R-Brewer) speaking at MCCE rally

    Ann Luther: “Today is about Maine people leading on one of the most important issues of our time. We will simply not back down when it comes to strengthening our democracy and the role of everyday people just like us within it.”

    Former Senator Ed Youngblood (R-Brewer): “The Clean Election Initiative is all about making sure that Maine people have the opportunity to step up, run for office, and serve their constituents without relying on big-money special interests. So much about politics is about divisions, but in this Clean Election endeavor, we are Mainers first. Republicans like me worked alongside Democrats, Greens, and unenrolled voters to collect these signatures. That is a reflection of the widespread concern about the skyrocketing cost of elections and the growing role of big money.”

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Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DHHS Meets With AFA, HHS

Posted on February 1, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

DSC_0121Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew along with Alec Porteous and Stephanie Nadeau met with the 127th Legislature’s Appropriations and HHS Committees for three hours on January 22 to discuss the administration’s FY 2016/17 biennial budget as it pertains to the state’s largest agency (Governor Paul LePage’s 2016-2017 Biennial General Fund Budget Proposal can be found here). The entire meeting is below, recorded in five clips.

From a DHHS press release:

    “For years, DHHS has come to the budget committee with news of massive shortfalls that send lawmakers scrambling,” said Commissioner Mayhew. “This time, it’s different. Under Governor LePage’s leadership, we have stabilized spending in the Medicaid program and are no longer managing to a crisis. Instead, the budget proposal tackles some of the Governor’s biggest priorities: nursing home funding, waitlists, primary care, and much more.”

    The DHHS budget proposal identifies significant savings to help fund important new initiatives, with a net request of just over $6 million for the FY 2016-2017 biennium-this out of a total Department General Fund budget of more than $2 billion.

    DSC_0123Among those initiatives are $24 million in additional Medicaid reimbursement funding for nursing homes; $46 million to move elderly, disabled, and mentally ill patients off of waitlists for services; $28 million to improve access to primary care providers; and $14 million to fulfill Maine’s obligation to mental health under the Consent Decree.

    Roughly $11 million in savings from a proposed reform to General Assistance reimbursement to municipalities will be directed specifically to fund services under Section 21 for disabled Mainers on waitlists.

    A total of $20 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) will be repurposed away from third-party advocacy organizations and directed to fund increased access to primary care providers for Medicaid recipients.

    After doubling in size, enrollment, and cost in the decade prior to Governor LePage’s first inauguration, Maine’s Medicaid program has since seen enrollment drop from a high of 354,000 in 2011 to 291,000 today. In 2011, 26 percent of Mainers were enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 18 percent of the national population. In 2014, Maine’s Medicaid enrollment matched the national average of 22 percent. “After years spent bailing out the sinking ship of Medicaid, we have finally charted a new course where spending on able-bodied adults is controlled and services for the elderly and disabled are prioritized,” added Commissioner Mayhew. “I am proud to be presenting this balanced budget to the Appropriations Committee on behalf of Governor LePage, whose tenacity and responsible priorities have gotten us where we are today.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

After the conclusion of the meeting, Daniel E. Wathen, Consent Decree Coordinator, met with the two committees to discuss multiple ongoing issues at Riverview Psychiatric Center and answer questions from legislators. The two clips of that meeting are below.

Part 1

Part 2

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