Don’t miss our own Senator Eloise Vitelli’s op-ed on her proposed solar inentive program for Maine in today’s Portland Press Herald.
Shenna Bellows, Maine’s Democratic candidate for United States Senate, declared her solidarity with farmers and brewers alike in the face of the FDA’s new proposed rule pertaining to the regulation of spent grains. Spent grains, which are brewers’ byproduct of a brewing process called mashing, are commonly used as a valuable source of food for livestock at local farms.
“This is an example of government regulation at its worst – harming Maine’s emerging craft brewing industry and many small farmers to benefit a few large agricultural corporations,” said Bellows. “It is wasteful and counterproductive to mandate that spent grains be sent to a landfill rather than local farmers. To protect our local economies and the environment, I urge the FDA to exempt craft brewers from this onerous regulation.”
The Bangor Daily News writes that this new rule would mostly affect small- and medium-sized farms and create conditions where only big companies can survive. Craft brewers, farmers, Bellows and other opponents of the regulations would like to see spent grains granted an exemption from the FDA’s regulations, which would increase regulations surrounding livestock feed. The regulations are pursuant to the controversial Food Safety Modernization Act voted for by Republican incumbent Senator Susan Collins. Bellows submitted her comments to the FDA today expressing her opposition to the draft regulations.
March 28, 2014 – Today the Maine Senate enacted a Republican-sponsored measure to accept federal funds to provide healthcare to 70,000 Mainers, including 3,000 veterans.
“Expanding access to healthcare will strengthen our economy and create jobs and save money, but most importantly, it will save lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D) Allagash. “Each one of the 70,000 people waiting to see if we step up and do the right thing has a story to tell, a family they love, dreams and plans for their future, and a life to live. It’s shameful those of us blessed with health insurance by our constituents would then turn around and deny that same right to them. It’s time for Governor LePage to have the back of Mainers and sign this bill.”
According to an evaluation by Harvard and the City University of New York, Maine could save around 157 lives per year by accepting federal funds.
The bill sponsored by Republican Senators Roger Katz of Augusta and Tom Saviello of Wilton would accept the federal funds for expansion for the three years the federal government pays 100% of the cost. Additionally, the compromise proposal creates a managed care plan in an effort to lower program costs.
The proposal would also reduce the waitlist for homecare services for some elderly and disabled Mainers to increase the number of Mainers helped by this initiative and strengthen the Health Care Crimes Unit in the Attorney General’s office to help investigate and prosecute any cases of fraud in the program.
According to analysis from the state’s non-partisan fiscal office, the compromise measure would save $3.4 million in the state’s budget in the first year alone,
“Governor LePage should join the 10 other Republican governors who have said yes to expansion in their states,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell of Portland. “Taking the funds offered to the state is good sense and good economics. It’s time for Maine to join the rest of our New England neighbors and the 27 other states who have said yes to expansion. It’s time for Governor LePage to put politics aside and sign this bill.”
Earlier this week, New Hampshire became the 27th state to expand health care, leaving Maine the only state in New England that has not accepted healthcare expansion.
The bill, LD 1487 “An Act to Provide Fiscal Predictability to the MaineCare Program and Health Security to Maine People,” will now be sent to Governor LePage. He has ten days to act on the measure.
After initially supporting a measure to increase access to early voting in Maine, three Republican Senators have flipped their votes and defeated the bill.
“This is a common sense measure that would have helped people engage and participate in our democracy,” said Senator John Patrick of Rumford. “It’s disappointing some of our colleagues chose to put party politics ahead of one of the most fundamental rights as a U.S. citizen.”
The measure would have amended the Maine Constitution to allow for early voting in the days prior to an election and required two-thirds support upon enactment from both bodies in the Legislature. It would have increased access to the ballot for many Mainers, was supported by the Secretary of State’s bipartisan Elections Commission, the Maine Municipal Association, and the town clerks who oversee elections.
Last May, 24 senators voted for the bill, meeting the required two-thirds necessary to amend the Maine Constitution. In February, the Senate voted 21–14 in support of the measure when Senator Ed Youngblood, Senator Tom Saviello, and Senator Pat Flood flipped their votes and voted against the bill.
Yesterday, the House passed the measure, LD 156, “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Concerning Early Voting and Voting by Absentee Ballot,” in a 87-57 vote, but fell short of the two-thirds needed. The measure faces no further action.
Our own Senator Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic) has introduced a measure to strengthen employment opportunities for workers in the state. The bill would expand and improve the Maine Apprenticeship Program, a successful, nationally recognized workforce development initiative.
“A well-trained workforce is essential to economic development for our state, and apprenticeship is an effective strategy for targeted workforce development and investment,” said Senator Vitelli. “Because apprenticeships are built around labor market demand and employers’ needs, they ensure the development of skilled workers in emerging and growing industries.”
The Maine Apprenticeship Program is a formal, employer-provided, nationally recognized workforce training program that combines specific on-the-job skill building with formal course work. On average, the Maine Apprenticeship Program leveraged nearly 111 times its taxpayer investment. Apprentices who completed their programs during 2012 saw an average wage increase of 62% from program start to program end.
Senator Vitelli’s bill would strengthen the Maine Apprenticeship Program’s outreach efforts to recruit new employers and inform unemployed and other workers about apprenticeship opportunities.
The measure would also create a stakeholders group to study best practices around the country to avoid layoffs and propose a comprehensive strategy for Maine.
“While we are doing many things right to help people keep their jobs, there is always room for improvement,” added Senator Vitelli. “We have much to gain from studying other state efforts.”
The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will hold a work session on the bill, LD 1658, “An Act To Expand and Improve Employment Opportunities in the State,” later this session.
Governor Paul LePage awarded the controversial consultant Gary Alexander the $1 million no-bid contract last September despite his record of mismanagement and failed policies in Pennsylvania. As the head of Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Alexander cost state taxpayers $7 million and took healthcare away from 89,000 children.
“It’s no surprise to see the Governor’s Tea Party consultant issue an ideological and political driven report,” said Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Maine people should see this for what it is: yet another political excuse to deny and delay health care to tens of thousands of Mainers. Independent studies show time and again that Medicaid expansion is life-saving health care that will create jobs and save money.”
According to a Harvard Study, Maine could prevent around 395 deaths per year by accepting federal funds.
Analyses by the Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation show Maine could save $690 million over the next decade from Medicaid expansion. Maine is one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over 10 years.
States that choose not to expand Medicaid under federal health care reform will leave millions of their residents without health insurance and increase spending on the cost of treating uninsured residents, according to a RAND Corporation study.
“There’s nothing in this report that is a surprise,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “This is essentially the same report that Alexander wrote for two other states. Now that the distraction of this report is over, let’s get back to what is really important: Making sure that 70,000 Mainers have access to the care they need so that no one has to fear a medical emergency will lead to bankruptcy.”
AUGUSTA–Democratic leaders on the state’s budget-writing committee announced they will spearhead a measure to ensure the restoration of the state’s revenue sharing funds to local towns and municipalities. Without this measure, Maine towns stand to lose an average of nearly 62%* of state funding for their local budgets.
(For a town by town list of projected revenue sharing reduction, please click here.)
Towns across Maine continue to be stretched. Just look at this past week’s obligations of keeping our roads plowed, sidewalks salted, and our residents safe,” added Sanator Dawn Hill, York, the Senate Democratic Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “If the state reneges on its promise to our local towns then homeowners and business owners will be forced to pay more. Our towns count on this money and it is our job to keep the state’s commitment.”
Last year, Governor Paul LePage proposed a budget eliminating municipal revenue sharing and shifted more than $400 million taxes to local towns and communities–affecting business and residential property owners. The Legislature rejected the governor’sproposal, blunted his property tax hike, and kept the bulk of revenue sharing in place. However, in December, Governor LePage doubled down on his threat to eliminate revenue sharing to towns and even went so far as to call revenue sharing “welfare.”
“We want our towns to know they can count on us to stave off more of the Governor’s cuts to cities and schools,” said Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, the House Democratic Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “The state’s commitment to our communities helps keep property taxes low for middle class families and business owners.”
According to state law, revenue sharing is funded by the state’s collection of sales and income tax and must be used to offset local property taxes. For the past several years, revenue sharing to towns has been steadily decreasing. This year alone, funding dropped from $98 million to $65 million, even lower than the state’s share in 1994.
Rotundo added, “These funds should not be used as a political football during an election year. We were fortunate to be able to put politics aside last session when it came to the budget and we hope to do so again.”
The measure proposed by the Appropriations Chairs seeks to restore $40 million to local towns, of which $10.8 million would go toward tax relief to local commercial property owners and $29.2 million toward tax relief for residential property owners. Without the measure, there will be a statewide loss of $26 million in K through 12 school funding, $12 million for local town operations, and $2 million for county tax needs.
“Mainers want to know that a promise made is a promise kept and that the state and our towns are going to do all they can to help keep our communities safe, clean, and viable,” said Senator Hill. “I know that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle want to see us uphold our share of the bargain for the towns we represent–and because of that, I’m confident that our Republican colleagues will join us in sustaining the state’s commitment.”
Here’s the text of the Maine Democratic Party’s weekly radio address, this week focusing on Governor LePage’s hiring of a Tea Party consultant to review MaineCare.
Most would agree that while the financial crisis is behind us, we have not yet recovered. Resources are stretched. Budgets are cash-strapped. And we are all being asked to do more with less.
In state government, there’s an even higher responsibility to ensure judicious spending—because our budget is a budget of the people, the taxpayer.
Good Morning. This is Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland.
Earlier this week, the legislature, and the people of Maine, read in the newspaper that Governor Paul LePage, paid nearly $1 million to hire a Tea Party consultant to review the state’s health insurance program, MaineCare.
n this time, when every dollar is being stretched, we have to ask, can the state afford to pay $1 million to an out-of-stater to write a report, especially when we already know what that report will say.
In the legislature, when we draft budgets, we expect, and we know, that every penny will be scrutinized—and it should be. Over the last few years, structural changes have been made. And, as a result, we haven’t been able to fund everything we want—or even, everything that needs to be funded.
So why then, is Governor LePage spending $1 million on a no-bid contract, to a man whose stance on MaineCare is already well-known and well-documented? In fact, under his direction, the state of Pennsylvania kicked nearly 90,000 children off of their state-run health care program.
This $1 million-man is cut from the same Tea Party cloth as Paul LePage. And so it’s not clear why we need to pay someone else $1 million to hear the same rhetoric we hear every day from Governor LePage.
The state’s financial priorities need to reflect the priorities of the people of Maine—and not the ideology of one small group in Augusta.
A million dollars can go a long way.
It could go towards providing property tax relief to Maine homeowners.
As we approach another cold, Maine winter, it could go towards fuel assistance for needy Maine families.
It could go towards worker retraining for Mainers who were laid off and haven’t yet returned to the workforce.
It could help more Maine children enroll in early childhood programs like HeadStart. Or, it could provide more free lunches to hungry students.
It could also go towards one of the state’s brewing crises at DHHS: for example, it could ensure patient and staff safety at Riverview and perhaps cure the issues raised by the feds when they took away $20 million from the state.
Or, it could set straight, the bungled MaineCare transportation program so that people can get to their critically needed doctor’s appointments.
But Governor LePage chose none of those options. Instead, he chose to write a check to another ideological warrior who will validate his position of denying and delaying healthcare to Mainers. This man will tell Governor LePage that the state’s run health care program, MaineCare, is welfare—even though MaineCare is health insurance.
In fact, MaineCare is the only way many of Maine’s elderly, disabled, working poor, and children get health insurance coverage. Six weeks from now, 25,000 of these Mainers will be dropped from the state-run health insurance program unless Governor LePage does something.
Instead of $1 million in wasteful spending, I call on Governor LePage to choose a different priority: expand healthcare to 70,000 Mainers. It is the right thing—and smart thing—to do financially and it is the moral thing to do for Maine people.
Thank you for listening. This is Senate President Justin Alfond. Have a great weekend—and Thanksgiving.
AUGUSTA — At a private event earlier this month, Governor Paul LePage told conservative supporters of the Informed Women’s Network that he made a “bet to resign” with Democratic leaders in the Legislature over the cost of Medicaid expansion in Maine. Non-partisan studies have shown that Maine could save hundreds of lives and millions of dollars by accepting federal health care dollars to expand Medicaid.
An audio recording from the event was posted on the Bangor Daily News blog The Tipping Point. According to a transcript of the audio, LePage said, “I told the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House I believe that expanding Medicare, expanding Obamacare, was going to increase the cost to the State of Maine, and I made a deal with them. I told them – if it doesn’t and you prove to me it’s going to lower the cost in health care, I’ll resign and I won’t run again, but if it raises the cost of health care by one dollar, you’ll both resign,” said LePage. “Because that’s honesty. That’s what it takes. You’ve gotta put it on the table and they don’t want to. Because it’s $150 million a year, plus that’s not even counting the 35,000. It’s another about 8 million just in new personnel. It’s crazy, it’s so out of control it’s unbelievable. So don’t let ’em fool you on healthcare.”
Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, who has championed the fight to accept federal health care dollars to expand coverage for tens of thousands of Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans, released the following statement in response:
“The Governor never made that wager. It’s simply not true,” said Eves. “We certainly would never make a bet or a joke over life-saving health care for the people of our state. Every non-partisan study has shown that Maine will save money from expanding health care for working families in our state, but most importantly it will mean more families will have access to a family doctor.”
According to a Harvard Study, Maine could prevent around 395 deaths per year by accepting federal funds. Analyses by the Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation show Maine could save $690 million over the next decade from Medicaid expansion.
AUGUSTA—Funding to education and workforce training, vaccines for kids, and aid to towns are back on the chopping block in a new budget proposal from the LePage administration.
On Wednesday, Richard Rosen, Governor Paul LePage’s director of the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), presented the proposal for $33 million in budget cuts to the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. OPM was charged with finding $33 million in savings as part of the state’s two year budget.
“There are strong concerns that the administration’s proposed cuts will harm our state’s economy and Maine families,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York who also serves as the Senate chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee. “We are prepared to make hard decisions and know that we must work together on solutions. But these solutions must be strategic and smart, not harmful and regressive for our working families and our towns.”
The 115-page report proposes to eliminate 97 jobs, cuts more than $9 million from education, nearly half a million dollars in HeadStart funding, and $1 million in innovative technology investments at Maine Technology Institute. It also includes a $1 million cut to vaccines for children and cuts to the state’s reimbursement to towns for General Assistance for struggling families.
“This proposal is a ‘greatest hits’ list of rehashed ideas that have been rejected by both parties, It’s hard to believe this is a serious proposal.” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations committee. “Now it is our job to find proposals that work.”
As required by the budget, $11 million of the proposed cuts would occur in fiscal year 2014 and do not require the approval of the Legislature. The remainder of the proposed cuts would occur in 2015 and would need to be approved by lawmakers when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
The Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee will consider the proposal in the coming weeks.
Details of the report can be found here.
Join us for chowder, music, Mike and guilt-free shopping at our annual Harvest Supper and Silent Auction on Sunday, October 20. Special guests include Congressman Mike Michaud and our local representatives. Register today!
The event will be held from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at America Legion Post 21, 200 Congress, Bath. The best of the best amateur chefs will take over the kitchen for the day, preparing chowder and salads that highlight the bounty of Maine. Local businesses and artists will give generously to make the Silent Auction exciting and rewarding for the more than 100 Sagadahoc Democrats who are expected to attend.
Reserve your tickets today! Join the Host Committee with a gift of $800 for a table for eight and or a gift of $100 per person. Individual tickets are $25 each. Children under the age of 18 may attend for free.
For more information or to donate an item to the Silent Auction, please call 371-9980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUGUSTA–Speaker of the Maine House Mark Eves and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell called on Governor LePage to stop making excuses to deny and delay health care for tens of thousands of Mainers. LePage vetoed a widely popular bipartisan measure to expand health care through Medicaid last session.
“Governor Paul LePage must stop making excuses to deny and delay health care to tens of thousands hard working Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans,” said Speaker Eves of North Berwick, who told the story of Navy Veteran Tom Ptacek of Portland, who will lose his health care coverage in January because Maine did not expand coverage.
Starting January 1, 2014 nearly 25,000 Mainers, including parents and veterans, will lose coverage and the state will lose out on more than $700,000 a day.
“From pacemakers to stents, $700,000 per day could save hundreds of thousands of lives,” added Eves.
Estimates show that Maine would receive $256 million per year from the federal government to fully cover more Maine people, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
“Governor LePage should join all the other Republican governors who have put aside partisanship and political games to expand health care for the people in their state,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Anne Haskell of Portland. “Instead, our governor has doubled down his “deny and delay” of expanding health care and he is spreading misinformation and fear, pitting Mainers against each other.”
At least ten Republican governors have accepted federal dollars to expand health care including most recently, governors from Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Haskell added, “The governor continues to vilify people who have no other choice but to turn to Medicaid or Medicare for their health care–many who are too ill to work a full day, or others who work hard, often at more than one job, but their employer doesn’t offer health insurance. Why does the governor think that he and the government can choose who deserves health care and who doesn’t?”
Democrats will bring a new bill forward in January to accept the federal health care dollars to increase coverage for more Maine people.
During the press conference, Eves said LePage has been “feeling the heat” from rejecting the widely popular measure.
“Maine people agree that increasing access to programs like Medicaid and Medicare means more Maine families can afford to see a doctor when they are sick,” said Eves.
Maine is projected to save $690 million to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people over the course of a decade, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Maine is one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over 10 years.