According to this editorial in today’s Portland Press Herald, as next year’s election approaches,Governor LePage has some serious explaining to do about his record in office.
Health care, education, tax fairness and innovation economy are key in second session
Strengthening the economy and growing the middle class. Those are our goals as Democrats in Maine’s Legislature. We’re proud of what we accomplished so far and are optimistic about what we’ll do when we reconvene.
I’m House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. Thank you for tuning in. In January, we’ll have a new set of bills to consider. But Democrats’ focus – as always – remains on the economy and the middle class. We know that the best way to grow the economy is from the middle out – not the top down. And it’s clear that there are ways to make that happen. It’s things like making health care available to more Mainers, supporting our students, growing our innovation economy, having a fair tax code and creating opportunity. This week, legislative leaders decided which bills will be in the second session. With our economy struggling to catch up, we kept an eye out for proposals to strengthen our economy and middle class.
Health care is an enormous issue. That’s why we’re pushing for Maine to accept the federal government’s offer to cover more Mainers. Last session, the governor vetoed a bipartisan measure that would have allowed the federal government to pay for 100 percent of the expansion costs for three years and at least 90 percent after that. Now, nearly 25,000 Mainers will lose their health care coverage in January. Another 55,000 who could have gained coverage won’t have it. The federal deal will inject money into our economy. We’ll be losing out on an additional $700,000 a day, starting in January, simply because we didn’t say yes. This January, we need to accept federal dollars to make sure every family has a family doctor.
I’m pleased about the early childhood education measures also. As someone who taught in public schools for two decades, I’ve seen how important those early years are. Science now shows 90 percent of brain development happens by age three, and that early learning yields the best return on investment. That’s why we will have bills to restore funding to programs like Head Start – funding that was cut by the governor and the previous, Republican-controlled Legislature. We want more young Mainers to have opportunities for success.
Higher education, too, helps Mainers compete for 21st century jobs – and dramatically increase earning potential. Over a lifetime, someone with a four-year degree earns $1.3 million more than someone with a high school diploma only. College has to be within the reach of more Mainers. One bill would let students go to the University of Maine System tuition-free and pay a fixed percentage of their income back to the state over a 20-year period.
Our innovation economy is an area that holds great promise, one that needs smart investments. That’s why we’ll consider a long-overdue research and development bond. Maine lags in this area. We invest at only half the level of the nation as a whole and not even at one-quarter of New England’s rate. Yet we know that every dollar of state R&D investment returns $12 in economic benefits to Maine. That’s a great return – one we can’t afford to pass up.
Tax fairness is another area we’ll tackle. The bipartisan compromise budget we passed earlier this year blunted the massive property tax hikes in the governor’s proposal. But there’s more that Democrats want to do. Property taxes are one of the most regressive forms of taxation, since middle-class people have most of their wealth in their homes. To strengthen our economy and create greater opportunity for all, we’ll be looking at ways to increase a property tax credit for working families.
This is just a small preview of the important work ahead in January. I hope you’ll stay tuned in to your State House when we reconvene to do the people’s business.
AUGUSTA — The effort to expand health care for tens of thousands of low income Mainers and veterans will continue in January.
Legislative leaders voted today to allow two emergency measures to accept federal health care dollars to move forward. The leaders must approve any new bills for the short second session of the legislature, which is typically reserved for emergency or time-sensitive measures.
“With thousands of Mainers set to lose health care in January, we must act quickly to expand health care,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “The state will lose out on an additional $700,000 per day starting in January if we don’t accept these funds. Life-saving health care and critical dollars are on the line.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has pledged to pay 100 percent of the costs of health care for tens of thousands of Mainers for three years.
The Governor vetoed a bipartisan measure earlier this year that would have accepted the funds for three years. As result, nearly 25,000 low-income Mainers, including 15,000 parents, will lose coverage in January and 55,000 other low-income Mainers will not be eligible for health care coverage.
According to a Harvard Study, Maine could prevent around 395 deaths per year by accepting federal funds.
“Making sure that you can go to the doctor, that you can afford the doctor’s visit when you are sick, is not debatable,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “It’s a basic right and one that ensures a healthier and longer life and for folks to keep working to provide for their families.”
Accepting federal funds would create and save 4,100 jobs in Maine, according to the Maine Center on Economic Policy.
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.
Speaker Eves is the sponsor of LR 2357, “An Act to Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People,” and Senator Jackson is the sponsor of LR 2330, “An Act to Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt.”
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.
Last week, we learned that Maine lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars in economic opportunity and hundreds of jobs. Statoil, a multi-billion dollar energy solutions innovator, pulled the plug on its wind energy project because of “changes,” “uncertainty,” and “project delays” resulting from the governor’s erratic behavior and political hijinks.
It is no secret that the governor does not like wind energy, and this time he let his personal agenda stand in the way of economic progress for Maine. Earlier this year, a deal was inked between Statoil and the state, and then, Governor LePage changed the rules in the middle of the game, and forced Statoil to take its project and its dollars somewhere else.
This is no way to run a business and it’s no way to run a state. No matter how you feel about windpower, the governor’s actions send the wrong message to businesses here in Maine, and those looking to come to Maine.
Moving forward, we will continue working to make Maine a place that is welcoming to investors, entrepreneurs, and businesses interested in helping us strengthen our economy and our workforce.
We understand there is a major sporting event taking place in a large New England city south of here. In the spirit of this momentus occasion Ben Grant, Chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, has a great column in the Bangor Daily News on how you draft and build a winning team. Enjoy the article, and the Series.
We want to draw your attention to two excellent Op Ed pieces from the Portland Press Herald, both setting the record straight about MIke Michaud’s position on reproductive privacy and a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. The first is from Mike himself, and this one is from Michaud supporter Stephanie Cotsirilos.
It’s important that we all know the facts and help Mike keep the record straight as the gubernatorial campaign heats up, so please check out both articles.
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.
This week, the extreme views of a minority faction in Congress forced a federal government shutdown.
This small group partisan radicals would rather risk the economic security of our country than provide affordable health care to millions of Americans.
Now hundreds of thousands of federal workers are suffering the consequences by being furloughed without pay until the shutdown is over. Meanwhile, members of Congress are still collecting a paycheck.
The bill would make all 535 members of Congress give up their pay during a government shutdown.
I, along with more than 90 members of Congress, have already voluntarily chosen to give up our pay. This shouldn’t be optional.
If federal employees aren’t getting paid because of a government shutdown they didn’t cause and aren’t responsible for, neither should members of Congress.
American workers, families, veterans, and seniors did not cause the mess we are in but they are having to suffer the consequences of it.
P.S. Please share this petition via email or on Facebook and Twitter so we can spread the word!
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—The President of the Maine Senate and the Speaker of the House released the following statement on the unnecessary shutdown of the federal government by Republican Tea Party members of Congress.
“As lawmakers it is always our job to make sure government works for the people. We should question the motives behind those who work against us. The fact that one small group from one political party is blackmailing the rest of the country is shameful,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Because of their actions, here in Maine, some folks will be prevented from moving forward with their home loans, thousands will lose their paycheck, and scores of businesses will be put on hold until this mess is cleaned up. I’m proud that in the Maine Legislature, we don’t behave that way. We show up and do our job—even when we disagree.”
In June the Legislature passed a responsible, balanced budget that prevented massive property tax spikes, restored cuts to Maine public schools and to programs that help seniors pay for care and medicine. While Governor LePage vetoed the bipartisan budget, the Legislature came together to override his veto and averted a state shutdown in Maine.
“The people of Maine and millions of Americans across the country woke up shaking our heads this morning,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We are tired of Tea Party politicians who are more interested in running our government into the ground than making it work. Now, more than ever, we must collaborate to move our state and country forward. Democrats are committed to doing so as we head into the next legislative session.”
AUGUSTA – As Republicans continue to march the country toward a government shutdown and a default on our obligations in an effort to defund Obamacare, the Maine Democratic Party is highlighting new data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showing that Obamacare is working and will cost consumers less than anticipated.
“This new report underscores that health insurance in Maine will be affordable under Obamacare. The report found that right here in Maine, a 27 year old making $25,000 a year would have access to insurance plans as low as $96 a month and a family of four making $50,000 could pay as little as $104,” said Ben Grant, Maine Democratic Party Chairman.
“Obamacare is working for Mainers, and Republicans in Washington are doing everything in their power to take it away, even if it means hurting our economy by shutting down the government and not paying our nation’s bills,” said Grant.
The report found that in addition to lower premiums, in Maine, consumers will be able to choose from an average of 20 plans so they can pick the plan that works best for them and their family. The health care plans give Mainers access to quality affordable coverage with no lifetime caps on care, ends discrimination due to preexisting conditions, bars insurers from charging women more and so much more.
In contrast, the House of Representatives last week passed a bill with the support of almost the entire Republican majority to demand a shutdown of the government unless Obamacare was defunded and all those hard-fought previsions were removed.
To view the report with a breakdown of how the Affordable Care Act is helping Mainers, click here.