(11:45 am UPDATE– A media availability press conference has now been announced for later this afternoon with the entire Democratic majority leadership members.)
A busy morning, as Governor Paul LePage, just returning from a “blink and you missed it” trip to DC and his annual Florida family vacation has once again blustered himself into some media coverage that is sure to get more national attention:
During a Bangor radio station interview this morning, Gov. Paul LePage said he will veto every bill that crosses his desk until his plan to repay hospitals goes into law. That includes the bill that will allow bars to open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Sunday this year.
LePage was speaking to Rik Tyler, on the George Hale/Rik Tyler Show on WVQM 101.3 and WVOM 103.9. The governor said he will veto any and all bills — including his own — until the emergency legislation he submitted is signed into law. LePage said he notified legislators of that intent last week.
More via Portland Press Herald:
Tyler, the radio show host, was caught off guard by the governor’s veto comment. LePage elaborated, saying the Legislature had passed emergency legislation to allow bars to open early on Sunday for St. Patrick’s Day and an emergency moratorium on public inspection of concealed weapons permit holder information.
LePage urged passage of the concealed weapons bill.
“If that’s more important than paying the hospitals then I think we have a problem,” LePage said.
He added, “Until they move forward … I’m not going to move forward on any legislation,” he said.
LePage added that the veto threat applied to his own bills.
Within hours, some of the Democratic majority leaders fired back with the following press release:
DEMOCRATS DENOUNCE LEPAGE SHUTDOWN, VETO THREATS
Democrats call on Republicans to reject “do nothing” politics
AUGUSTA — Democratic leaders on Friday denounced Governor Paul LePage’s threat to halt the work of the Legislature by abusing his veto power and shutting down state government until his hospital repayment plan becomes law.
“In one week we’ve heard ongoing threats to shutdown state government if Republicans don’t get what they want. Today, the Governor promised to veto every bill that comes across his desk if he doesn’t get what he wants. This is not governing. This is not leadership. It is the type of political gamesmanship that doesn’t belong here in Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “I suspect the people of Maine want leaders not schoolyard bullies. We have serious challenges facing our economy and we should be focused on finding solutions not making threats.”
During a radio appearance early Friday morning, the Governor promised that he will veto all bills that cross his desk until the Legislature passes his borrowing scheme to make the final payment to Maine hospitals. Republicans have failed to acknowledge that the hospital debt has been continuously and increasingly paid back, thanks largely to a plan developed by Democrats. The Governor’s threat to shutdown state government follows Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s prediction of a shutdown last week.
“First, Republican leaders start throwing around the possibility of a state government shutdown and now the Governor is threatening to go on a veto spree. This type of brinksmanship is even worse than what we’re seeing from the GOP in Washington. Maine people deserve better than this from their leaders,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.
Democrats are focused on legislation to strengthen Maine’s workforce, public schools, and the middle class. The Governor is threatening those and other important efforts.
“The Governor is telling us it’s his way or the highway. His obstructionist bullying will derail important legislation on domestic violence, public safety and economic development,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. “We call on our Republican colleagues to reject such do-nothing politics.”
The LePage administration is pushing a convoluted plan that pulls the state’s wholesale liquor business into a deal that would put Maine in debt to Wall Street to make the final payment to hospitals. The plan gambles the value of the liquor contract and is being used to hold hostage other bonds that already have approval from Maine voters.
“Today the Governor told the people of Maine that the hospitals are more important than they are. I disagree,” said Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash. “I think the people of Maine want lawmakers focused on getting folks back to work, earning more money and improving our schools.”
Maine has paid more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the last decade.
Jackson added, “We need to get the best deal for Maine and that requires us working together. I think everyone agrees that ten years ago we rushed this deal and could’ve done better. Now, we cannot gamble the future of Maine because the Governor is having another temper tantrum.”
Interesting timing for the latest outburst from LePage- could it be to deflect attention from the fact that starting today, all of the… um… “inaccuracies” that former Rep. Jon McKane and the rest of the 125th GOP legislators told to get LD 1333/ PL 90 shoved into law are being exposed as such?
About 7,000 Maine customers of Mega Life and Health Insurance Co. will be affected by a rate change set to take effect March 1.
While some policyholders will see their health premium costs drop by nearly 33 percent, others will be hit with rate hikes of up to 47 percent, according to Mega’s filing with the Maine Bureau of Insurance. The average rate increase across all policyholders amounts to 6.5 percent.
The rate change affects Mega’s individual policyholders, or people who purchase health coverage on their own rather than through an employer. The 6,990 policies involved provide coverage to about 12,600 people, including the policyholders’ dependents.
It is also worth noting that one of the loudest critics of Dirigo Health, created by the Maine Legislature in 2003 to offer an affordable option to small businesses or self-employed individuals, and a co-sponsor of PL 90/ LD 1333, termed out former Rep. Jonathan McKane of Newcastle, was selected to sit on Dirigo Health’s board.
More to come.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 )
(NOTE: Originally posted 27 Nov 2012; being shared again for comparative purposes with the recently released 126th committee lists. ~AP)
With all of the 126th Legislative races now settled and all names known, it is time to look ahead to 2013- not just the new members, but possible shake ups in the joint standing committees (For more info: “Rule 301. Joint Standing Committee Responsibilities and Jurisdiction”).
These committees will be of great focus immediately after the new Legislature is sworn in next week, as there are already anticipated reviews of LD 1333/ PL 90 and LD 849/ PL 692, as well as the next biennial budget, with additional work still needed to fix the Governor’s previous budget:
LePage’s finance commissioner, Sawin Millett, told Capitol News Service that the governor’s two-year budget will be presented to the Legislature in early January and that a supplemental plan to plug the gap in the current budget would follow.
Budgetary matters could set the tone for a legislative session seemingly set up for conflict between the Democratic majority and LePage.
Democrats haven’t announced any policy initiatives but have hinted that workforce development, education and health care are on their wish list. Changes to the Republican-backed health insurance law that was passed over the objection of Democrats in 2011 will likely be proposed.
The 125th saw the elimination of 2 separate committees to form a third with a tremendous range of focuses. As Reps Terry Hayes and Paul Gilbert explain in a BDN opinion piece (“Maine workers and employers deserve more attention”) published yesterday:
Here is a bit of Maine legislative history. The Joint Standing Committee on Labor existed for 100 years before 2010, when the Republicans were elected to lead. The first action of the new Republican leadership two years ago was to eliminate the Labor Committee and broaden the charge of the Business, Research, and Economic Development committee to include labor policy. The rationale included, “By combining these two committees, GOP leadership seeks to address commerce, workforce, research and development issues within a more effective framework.”
The outcome was the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, a “supercommittee” of 13 legislators with a staggering workload. Policy issues ranged from uniform building codes to workers’ compensation reform to protecting heating oil consumers. Previously, the two committees dealing with these issues each met twice a week during the legislative session. The newly formed supercommittee met five days per week.
What Hayes and Gilbert envision for a practical workable solution to the problems seen in the past is the creation of a new committee:
Republicans argued successfully in 2010 that isolating labor issues from management was counterproductive. We agree. We suggest establishing a Joint Standing Committee on Labor and Work Force Development, appointing members from both management and labor backgrounds. Diverse representation on the committee will provide the variety of perspectives necessary to generate policy improvements for workers and businesses.
Via Pierce Atwood comes this comprehensive look at the current state of the various standing committees, with the names of former and no longer serving legislators crossed out:
Appropriations and Financial Affairs (6 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Richard W. Rosen (R-Hancock), Chair
Senator Roger J. Katz (R-Kennebec)*
Senator Dawn Hill (D-York)
Representative Patrick S. A. Flood (R-Winthrop), Chair
(now Senator of SD 21)
Representative Tom J. Winsor (R-Norway)
Representative Kathleen D. Chase (R-Wells)
Representative Tyler Clark (R-Easton)
Representative Kenneth Wade Fredette (R-Newport)*
Representative Dennis L. Keschl (R-Belgrade)
Representative Margaret R. Rotundo (D-Lewiston), Ranking Member
Representative John L. Martin (D-Eagle Lake)
Representative David C. Webster (D-Freeport)
Representative Sara R. Stevens (D-Bangor)
*Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee
Energy, Utilities and Technology(6 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Michael D. Thibodeau (R-Waldo), Chair*
Senator Christopher W. Rector (R-Knox)
Senator Philip L. Bartlett II (D-Cumberland)
Representative Stacey Allen Fitts (R-Pittsfield), Chair
Representative James M. Hamper (R-Oxford)
Representative Dean A. Cray (R-Palmyra)
Representative Larry C. Dunphy (R-Embden)
Representative Aaron F. Libby (R-Waterboro)
Representative Jon Hinck (D-Portland), Ranking Member
Representative Alexander Cornell du Houx (D-Brunswick)
Representative Roberta B. Beavers (D-South Berwick)
Representative Mark N. Dion (D-Portland)
Representative Louis J. Luchini (D-Ellsworth)
*Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee
Environment and Natural Resources(6 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Thomas B. Saviello (R-Franklin), Chair
Senator Roger L. Sherman (R-Aroostook)
Senator Seth A. Goodall (D-Sagadahoc)*
Representative James M. Hamper (R-Oxford), Chair
Representative Bernard L. A. Ayotte (R-Caswell)
Representative Jane S. Knapp (R-Gorham)
Representative Joan M. Nass (R-Acton)
Representative Ricky D. Long (R-Sherman)
Representative James W. Parker (R-Veazie)
Representative Robert S. Duchesne (D-Hudson), Ranking Member
Representative Melissa Walsh Innes (D-Yarmouth)
Representative Joan W. Welsh (D-Rockport)
Representative Denise Patricia Harlow (D-Portland)
*Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee
Health and Human Services(6 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Earle L. McCormick (R-Kennebec), Chair
Senator Nichi S. Farnham (R-Penobscot)
Senator Margaret M. Craven (D-Androscoggin)
Representative Meredith N. Strang Burgess (R-Cumberland), Chair
Representative Leslie T. Fossel (R-Alna)
Representative Richard S. Malaby (R-Hancock)
Representative Beth A. O’Connor (R-Berwick)
Representative Deborah J. Sanderson (R-Chelsea)
Representative Heather W. Sirocki (R-Scarborough)
Representative Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick), Ranking Member*
Representative Matthew J. Peterson (D-Rumford)
Representative Linda F. Sanborn (D-Gorham)
Representative Peter C. Stuckey (D-Portland)
*Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee
Insurance and Financial Services(6 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Rodney L. Whittemore (R-Somerset), Chair
Senator Lois A. Snowe-Mello (R-Androscoggin)
Senator Joseph C. Brannigan (D-Cumberland)
Representative Wesley E. Richardson (R-Warren), Chair
Representative Jonathan B. McKane (R-Newcastle)
Representative Joyce A. Fitzpatrick (R-Houlton)
Representative Susan E. Morissette (R-Winslow)
Representative John J. Picchiotti (R-Fairfield)
Representative Sharon Anglin Treat (D-Hallowell), Ranking Member
Representative Adam A. Goode (D-Bangor)
Representative Henry E. M. Beck (D-Waterville)
Representative Terry K. Morrison (D-South Portland)
Representative Paulette G. Beaudoin (D-Biddeford)
Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development(7 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Christopher W. Rector (R-Knox), Chair
Senator Thomas H. Martin, Jr. (R-Kennebec)
Senator Troy Dale Jackson (D-Aroostook)*
Representative Kerri L. Prescott (R-Topsham), Chair
Representative Dana L. Dow (R-Waldoboro)
Representative Melvin Newendyke (R-Litchfield)
Representative Amy Fern Volk (R-Scarborough)
Representative Raymond A. Wallace (R-Dexter)
Representative John L. Tuttle, Jr. (D-Sanford), Ranking Member
(Now Senator of SD 3)
Representative Timothy E. Driscoll (D-Westbrook)
Representative Paul E. Gilbert (D-Jay)
Representative Robert B. Hunt (D-Buxton)
Representative Erin D. Herbig (D-Belfast)
*Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee
Taxation(8 openings of 13 seats)
Senator Jonathan T. E. Courtney (R-York), Chair
Senator David R. Hastings III (R-Oxford)
Senator Richard G. Woodbury (U-Cumberland)
Representative L. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls), Chair
Representative G. Paul Waterhouse (R-Bridgton)
Representative Bruce A. Bickford (R-Auburn)
Representative Paul Edward Bennett (R-Kennebunk)
Representative R. Ryan Harmon (R-Palermo)
Representative Windol C. Weaver (R-York
Representative Seth A. Berry (D-Bowdoinham), Ranking Member*
Representative Donald E. Pilon (D-Saco)
Representative Mark E. Bryant (D-Windham)
Representative Elspeth M. Flemings (D-Bar Harbor)
*Member of legislative leadership in the 126th and unlikely to serve on a committee
This post will be updated as soon as the final decisions regarding committees and members are released to the public.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Radio Address by Rep. Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan): Budget challenges underscore need to strengthen Maine’s economy, focus on jobs
Thank you for tuning in.
Next week, newly-elected lawmakers will be sworn into the Maine Legislature — and we will have to hit the ground running.
Earlier this week, we learned we already have immediate and significant budget challenges. We are looking at lower than expected revenues and higher than expected costs in MaineCare.
We are ready to roll up our sleeves to work with Republicans on a thoughtful and measured approach to grow our economy and resolve our budget problems.
During the last year, lawmakers from both parties spoke to hundreds of thousands of Mainers and business owners. They expect us to find common ground and get results. Democrats take this charge seriously.
We know the problems we face are too big for one party to solve alone.
The LePage administration tells us that we face a projected $100 million shortfall in the MaineCare budget. While enrollment in MaineCare, the state’s health care program, has been cut during the past two years, costs continue to grow.
We hope we can now have an honest conversation about what is truly causing these continual budget problems within the department and work together to find real, long term solutions, that not only solve our current budget problems but stop them from occurring in the first place.
In order to do this, we need to look at the big picture. We know five percent of the patients who participate in MaineCare – the elderly, disabled, and the very sick – generate 55 percent of the costs. Our solutions must address those cost drivers, not take the easy way out by simply slashing programs and taking health care away from people who need it most.
The best way to do that is through better managing health care, putting a greater emphasis on prevention, and making care more efficient.
After all, a check-up is much less expensive than a trip to the emergency room.
We must make thoughtful and strategic cuts that lower costs not simply shift them.
The sluggish state economy has also left us with a revenue deficit. Sales and corporate income tax are lower than expected because Maine’s middle class is still struggling to make ends meet.
When Maine families have more money in their pockets, they spend it at the local grocery store, the hardware store, and at our small businesses on Main Street – that helps improve everyone’s bottom line from our local shop owners, to our communities, and even the state budget.
The revenue shortfall underscores a larger problem in Maine’s economy. And, it is exactly the reason why the Legislature must get to work immediately on measures that truly strengthen our economy and rebuild our middle class.
We must help put more people back to work. We need more jobs in the short term and we need a blueprint for attracting and maintaining good-paying jobs in the future throughout all of Maine – not just in urban areas. We need a better prepared workforce to meet the needs of today’s employers and the jobs of the future.
We must have a vision for a better Maine.
We have an opportunity and obligation to work with the governor and our Republican colleagues and we are fully committed to doing just that.
Thank you for listening; I’m Rep. Jeff McCabe from Skowhegan.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: LIHEAP An Important Safety Net for Maine’s Most Vulnerable Citizens
Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.
I have spoken recently about energy costs. Today, I will continue that theme, but instead of addressing the energy industry, I want to talk with you about Maine’s most vulnerable making it through the winter.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, “LIHEAP,” is a federal program to help low-income people pay their energy bills. The Maine State Housing Authority administers this program through contracts with the state’s Community Action Program Agencies (often called CAPS) and involves about 450 fuel vendors, mostly oil dealers, to deliver fuel to the program’s participants.
This is an important program. This safety net keeps many of Maine’s elderly and people living with disabilities and low-income families warmer in their homes through the winter. Without this program, many of these people would suffer needlessly from extreme cold or be forced out of their homes.
I appreciate Senator Snowe’s vigilance in advocating for LIHEAP funding at the federal level. Maine received $34.9 million in LIHEAP funding in November. This represents 90 percent of our total expected funding for this winter. The federal government has held the other 10 percent back in case of sequestration.
My administration is working closely with the Maine State Housing Authority and Efficiency Maine Trust to develop a comprehensive plan to minimize the impact on Maine’s most vulnerable households. In addition to direct heating assistance, these agencies will provide a limited amount of funds for furnace repair and home weatherization, particularly homes heated with electricity.
Unfortunately, the amount of federal funding is likely to stay at a lower level than in previous years. Due to our state’s own fiscal crisis, the State of Maine cannot make up the loss. However, we can make the most of these vital funds to assist the most needy by good planning and efficient deployment of our resources.
My administration, alongside Maine State Housing Authority, has created an energy plan that ensures the highest benefit to those with the lowest incomes and highest heating needs.
Conservation activities are also an important part of our efforts. Maine’s housing stock is the sixth oldest in the nation. Many of our homes lack sufficient insulation and have outdated heating systems. Weatherization efforts help address these challenges and conserve fuel, in turn making the most of our limited funds. However, the state cannot weatherize every home that needs it. This is why volunteer and charitable efforts such as Keep Maine Warm are critical partners in this effort.
Your personal generosity of both your time and donations to local weatherization efforts and fuel assistance programs can help ease the burden.
As we prepare for the holidays and the winter ahead, take a few moments to help another family prepare as well. Small efforts can mean big savings, and everyone benefits.
Lastly, I want to share with you a resource that all Mainers in need of heating assistance can use. The telephone number is 2-1-1. Local resources are available and if you don’t know what they are this is a good place to start. Again the number is 2-1-1.
Nobody should be left out in the cold this season. As Governor, I will do everything in my power to help protect our most vulnerable.
Thank you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(BLAST FROM THE PAST) LD 1333 Already Causing Fears of Skyrocketing Rates, Disgraced Insurers Coming Back to Maine
(Originally posted 13 Sep 2011. ~AP)
Bangor Daily reporting that the U.S. Census Bureau today will be releasing the latest uninsured figures today. But as it is based upon the 2010 census numbers, one wonders how accurate the numbers for Maine will be.
Especially in light of news that the insurance industry is already raising premiums beyond reach of many small rural Maine companies.
One company that left Maine but has now returned, Assurant, is now sending out expensive lil recruiting literature to all life and health (L&H) insurance agents in the state. Previously they did business under than name of Fortis, and had landed themselves in hot water with the State of Maine Bureau of Insurance, as did the company John Alden.
Expect to see a LOT of these formerly disgraced companies coming back home to roost in Maine, thanks to LD 1333. There are many reasons they left Maine markets in the first place, and one would be wise to be skeptical of them as they return, as well as do their own research into the companies before they sign anything.
In addition to Senator Plowman’s opinion piece today where she failed repeatedly and predictably to mention her (and others) many questionable connections to ALEC and MHPC, the Bangor Daily News ran one from Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle).
One of those laws is the major health insurance overhaul Republicans pushed through a few months ago.We are already seeing the negative effects of this health insurance overhaul. The Ellsworth American reported recently that some small businesses in rural Maine will be seeing their health insurance costs go up more than 60 percent as early as October.
According to the report, small businesses in Hancock, Washington and Aroostook counties will seeinsurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle may see an increase of 90 percent.
Premium hikes like these will put the companies at their breaking points. A recent survey of Maine people by Market Decisions found that 21 percent fear losing health insurance coverage in the next 12 months. Nearly 40 percent of those individuals said the top reason for their fear was the new health care law passed by Republicans in Augusta.
It’s no wonder they are afraid. The insurance overhaul will allow insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. And, most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.
The new law expands that ratio to 1 to 5; that is, if the lowest premium is $500 a month, the highest an insurer can now charge is $2,500. The thought is that that insurers would increase the premiums for their more costly customers while – don’t laugh at this – lowering the costs for the young and healthy.
Raise your hand if you can afford $2500 a month for health insurance. Yeah, me neither.
This caught my eye, as I was in the House gallery on May 5th during the first reading of LD 1333:
During the floor debate, I asked this question to all the lawmakers in the House: “What effect will this have on premiums for a 50-year-old, self-employed fisherman living on an offshore island?” No one answered, either because they did not know or did not like the answer.
In fact, Reps. Kumiega, Webster and Russell all had questions of their colleagues that went completely unanswered. Have a look:
This is just getting started and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Maine in great position to serve as gateway to low-cost Canadian electricity
As the seasons change and winter weather approaches Mainers look to find ways to reduce energy costs. Now is also the time to think about Maine’s use of energy as well as our own homes’ use of energy.
Maine needs a truly free energy market. I emphasized the importance of lowering our energy costs during my campaign. Creating ways to make this happen remains a priority of my administration. Recent events and reports show how Maine could better compete in the global economy if we had a competitive energy market that allows consumers their choice of resources.
Maine homeowners and small businesses have waited a dozen years to access the competitive pricing lawmakers promised in 2000, when they deregulated the state’s electricity industry. Now that competition has arrived, more than one hundred and fifty-thousand families are electricity-rate shopping from companies like Electricity Maine, Dead River, C.N. Brown, Fairpoint, and Gulf Oil. They pay rates far cheaper than the regulated “standard offer” negotiated by the Public Utilities Commission.
New technologies have made natural gas an excellent alternative for both power generation, which would further decrease the cost of electricity, and for heating homes and powering businesses.
Natural gas costs less than half of what it was five years ago. Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest: Energy, the Modern World, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that America’s growing natural gas supplies are generating a renewal in certain manufacturing industries. The drop in natural gas prices is spurring chemical companies to plan on investing billions of dollars in new factories in the United States. Yergin notes that, in the future, China’s historical advantage in cheap labor could be offset by cheap energy in our country.
Maine must be poised to take advantage of this—for both our people and economy. A new report by the New England Council and Deloitte noted that the cost to make a highly engineered product is only 2 percent higher in Maine than in the Southern United States. In comparison, Boston is roughly 33 percent more expensive. Lowering our energy cost would make us even more competitive within New England and the United States.
Deloitte makes several suggestions to improve Maine’s energy infrastructure by making it more reliable and diversifying our energy resources. In fact, it references our dependency on heating oil and encourages us to switch to alternative fuels. In addition to natural gas, our state has an abundance of natural resources we can use to produce energy. Wood pellets are a good example. Thermal storage technologies, like geothermal, can also lower heating costs. For power generation, Maine’s hydro, biomass and tidal power options are renewable, lower in cost, and cleaner than coal and oil.
Regulations now block our ability to take advantage of the abundance of resources out there. Studies indicate that Maine’s current Renewable Portfolio Standards Law, which mandates the minimum amount of energy consumers must purchase from various sources, will raise the cost of electricity in Maine by 8 percent in the next five years.
We need to reform our energy laws and remove the 100-megawatt limitation on renewable energy sources. This cap prevents us from taking advantage of the free market and new technologies. Getting rid of the cap would allow us to produce more renewable energy, import low-cost Canadian renewable energy, and make our state more competitive in the global economy.
Maine is in a great position to serve as a gateway to low-cost Canadian electricity. The money that could be realized by transferring power from Canada to southern New England would help offset our current energy costs and be directed into improving Maine’s economy.
Therefore, as we begin this heating season and prepare for the winter and legislative session ahead, think about what you could do if you spent less on energy and let your legislators know that you’d prefer to keep that extra money in your own pocket.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
When Mainers say grace at the Thanksgiving table Thursday, we will offer thanks to the family, friends and community who surround and support us.
Maine people have a tradition of caring for their neighbors as they care for themselves and their own families.
I’ve seen that spirit of goodwill during the recent recession as many Mainers kindly stepped-up to help those less fortunate.
This fall, the First Lady and I had the honor to open our own doors for three donation days as part of our second annual Blaine House Food Drive. Our friends at the Good Shepherd Food Bank will help distribute that food to those who need it most. We were humbled by the hundreds of Mainers who came from across the state to give thousands of pounds of non-perishable foods.
A group of Girl Scouts traveled all the way from Washington County on a Saturday, simply because they wanted to help others. They learned – as so many Mainers have – that when we give, we also receive.
It was important for Ann and me to instill in our children the gift of service to others. It has been a tradition for our family to help the less fortunate in our community. I know how difficult it can be to swallow your pride and ask for help. But it was a privilege for our family to give grace and the dignity deserved to those who had fallen on tough times.
I know first-hand they can get back up.
As I reflect on what I am most appreciative of this Thanksgiving, it is not a government policy or program, but the great and generous spirit of the people of Maine.
As someone who has been without, I know it is not government hand-outs but the commitment and love of Maine people and community organizations that improves lives and strengthens our State.
I sincerely believe more in the heart of people, than in the soul of government.
Government certainly should and must safeguard our most vulnerable, but government cannot provide what we need most.
The care and compassion in each of us – shared with others especially this time of year – will make the most difference in people’s lives. We are all in this together.
In that spirit, I want to recognize that many of our own neighbors to the south are spending Thanksgiving away from homes and towns that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. And our thanks go to those – including the many Mainers – assisting with the recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Thank you for listening. Ann and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(With Governor LePage now stating that there is a school in Maine, which he wouldn’t name because it’s “embarrassing,” where only 23 percent of graduates are proficient in English and math, it seems a good time to dust off this oldie but goodie post… ~AP)
Originally posted 19 Feb 2011:
My friend Gerald has a “default poll” post running today, so I thought we could run one as well to elaborate on his poll! BTW, so far 92% (23 of 25) responders think LePage is “making sh*t up”.
Our MPW Question:
“Which communities do you believe Gov. LePage was referring to when he said that some were ready to default?”
Even in these days of zippity-quick social media, strong enough that a handful of people can overthrow 30 years of oppression by utilizing Facebook and Twitter, it appears that sometimes it still takes some time for traditional media to pay attention and catch up to what’s going on in their own state.
Take for example, Governor LePage’s statement as first reported in Dirigo Blue (emphasis mine):
I have transcribed the section in which Gov. LePage mentions these couple of communities. The text that is struck through was part of the prepared remarks he did not read. The underlined is what he added:
We owe twice as much in debt as we expect to collect in
General Fund Revenuesthe next biennium. Over the next two years and ourthe State of Maine debt as a percentage of state GDP is twice the national average; twice. There are several states that I was reading this week that our teetering on default with municipal bonds. They are Texas, New Jersey, and New York, and folks, we’re only a few numbers behind them.Because whether or not the State defaults, we have a couple of communities that are ready to default. So folks, it is a lot more serious than anyone is willing to give it credit.
That’s the bad news.
Pretty serious stuff from the Governor! This was an address delivered Thursday 10 Feb 2011 to the joint session of the Statehouse with plenty of media there- so one would think that said media would have picked UP on this statement by the Governor and asked him specifically,“What communities?”
Yet none did. For DAYS.
Democratic lawmakers ask Governor to name “default” communities mentioned in budget speech
Legislators from financial services committee say we must hear from Maine towns that are ready to “default”AUGUSTA – Democratic lawmakers on the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee, which considers policy related to banking and foreclosure matters, are calling on the governor to identify the Maine towns he named in his budget speech that are ready to “default.”
“If the governor knows of towns in our state that are facing bankruptcy, lawmakers have an obligation and responsibility to hear directly from those towns,” said Rep. Sharon Treat of Hallowell, who serves as the lead Democrat on the committee and a sponsor of Maine’s strong foreclosure protection laws. “If Maine municipalities are truly on the brink of insolvency, we need to hear about it and make sure the legal and financial safeguards are in place to protect the public.”
The Maine Municipal Association told the House Democratic Office that they are unaware of any Maine town in danger of going bankrupt.
“If my town was facing bankruptcy, I would want to know and I would consider it my duty as representative to work with the state to help my community,” said Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor, a Democratic lawmaker serving on the committee. “The governor’s speech was the first time we heard that there are municipalities in our state that are going bankrupt. The comments are even more worrisome considering the governor’s budget proposal to cut funding to towns.”
The governor’s budget proposal reduces the percentage of revenue sharing provided to municipalities for two years.
Since then, attention is finally being paid by local media and pressure put upon the LePage administration to “put up or shut up”, as people on Facebook and Twitter are discussing the comments, the Governor’s refusal to disclose the names of the communities- and statewide speculation is growing as to whether or not there is any truth to these statements at all.
But the governor has not budged. In a statement, his office said LePage “has had private conversations with leaders from a couple of Maine communities that face severe financial stress. He is monitoring the progress, but will not be naming the communities.””I don’t know what private discussions may or may not have been held, but we at Maine Municipal Association are not aware of any two or three municipalities sort of teetering on insolvency,” says Eric Conrad, spokesman for the association, which represents Maine’s towns and cities.
Adding to the group’s confusion is the governor’s lack of specifics about the problems the cited communities were facing. “We heard him when he said it,” Conrad says. “But we looked a each other and we’re just not sure–was he talking about pension liability, for instance, or overall financial operations. We’re just not clear.”
State statute says that a special board would have to be established to enable financially-troubled municipalities to get assistance from the state. Staff at the Maine Municipal Association say that has not happened before, in their recollection.
Lewiston Sun Journal: LePage dogged by calls to name “default” towns
LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt has declined to name the communities the governor referred to in his budget speech. “The governor doesn’t think it’s his place to share that kind of news,” Demeritt said. “He was speaking in his budget address, and that’s as far as he wanted to go with it.”Demeritt said he wasn’t aware of any communities approaching the state because they couldn’t pay their bills. However, he said, “the governor knows how to read a balance sheet” and he had identified a couple of communities that were in trouble.
Eric Conrad, communications director for the Maine Municipal Association, said no community had come forward with that kind of news. “We’re just not sure what (LePage) meant when he said that,” Conrad said. “If there were communities approaching insolvency, we think we would know. But we don’t know if the governor was talking about pensions or something else.”
Conrad said nobody he spoke with at the association could recall an example of a town defaulting or initiating the state takeover outlined in Title 30 of Maine law.
Asked why the governor wouldn’t name the communities, Demeritt said the governor didn’t think it was appropriate, even though those towns would become public if they fell under Title 30.
Hmm. Someone should file a FOIA to see that same spreadsheet that Demeritt referenced…
MyFoxMaine: Governor’s ‘Default’ Claim Questioned
The Maine Municipal Association says it’s not aware of any Maine town in danger of going bankrupt. But the Governor’s office says it is true. Still, it does not plan to release more details.”Governor LePage has had private conversations with leaders from a couple of Maine communities that face severe financial stress. He is monitoring the progress, but will not be naming the communities,” said Dan Demeritt with the Governor’s office.
Bangor Daily News (same story as LSJ): LePage refuses to name ‘ready-to-default’ towns
And still, the Governor has refused to answer the questions. And for the second week in a row, LePage has failed to issue a weekly address to the State of Maine.
So much for openness and transparency…
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I am honored to be speaking to you today about the cause closest to my heart and so often on my mind: our veterans, who we commemorate each November 11, the day in 1918 when our nation’s plan for peace prevailed and World War I was finally ended.
I find it fitting that Veterans Day always follows Election Day and the divisive campaigns that lead to it. Nothing unites all Americans more than the love for our great country and the pride and respect we have for the millions of our citizens who have answered the highest call to defend its honor and promote its ideals.
We are free, safe and strong thanks to the courage and selfless sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their patient, patriotic families.
Our veterans’ commitment to our country and the causes it stands for have not changed as a result of the outcome of this week’s elections.
Our veterans are not Republicans, Independents or Democrats. They are Americans.
They are not from red states or blue. They are from these UNITED States.
Our 22 million living veterans are your fathers and mothers, your sisters and brothers, your sons and daughters. They are your neighbors and teachers and firefighters and the bagger who packed up your groceries and your newly-elected representatives in Augusta and Washington DC. They are educated – with a greater percentage of our vets having earned high school diplomas or higher than the general population – yet they suffer increased rates of unemployment and homelessness.
This should not be. We must come together on behalf of our bravest to make the Maine they return to stronger than the one they were called from to serve. Coming home should not be their hardest tour of duty.
Just as they fought for our freedom, we all will fight to ensure they return to the health and higher education benefits they’ve earned and that growing Maine businesses hire these heroes, who return not only with the skill sets they’ve strengthened during their service, but with the culture of collaboration and communication critical to successful military operations.
Government, companies, communities, colleges, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, friends and family all have an important role in supporting these individuals. However, it takes a cooperative effort. No single person or program has the resources to provide the lifetime care and commitment our veterans have earned. Besides, our debt for their service is one we all must pledge to pay forward.
Our lives are busy, and it is easy to think of Veterans Day as just another day off from work or school. We owe them more than that.
Our appreciation can be expressed in many ways, from a nod of thanks to the driver with the Purple Heart plate to recommitting ourselves to service above self through volunteerism or charity. Visit with veterans at the Maine Veteran’s home, as the Governor and I will be doing over the next few days, or join those friendly Mainers who greet hundreds of thousands of troops –day and night– as they take those first sacred steps back on American soil at Bangor International Airport.
Above all else, never forget that our veterans risked everything so we all could have the freedom to achieve anything. To them, our state says – and shows – our collective thanks–, on Veterans Day and every day.
God bless our troops of past and present, God bless the State of Maine, and God bless the UNITED States of America. Thank you.
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