To the Editor:
Mainers are tired of out-of-control welfare spending. The most recent data (2010-National Association of State Legislators) shows Maine’s welfare budget to be 30% of the total expenditures made each year. That ranks us second in the nation among the 50 states and District of Columbia.
We rank third in TANF-enrolled households, second in households receiving food stamps and third in Medicaid eligibility. It became clear that changes must occur and the eligibility must be curbed back closer to federal standards—not where it currently fell.
With that in mind, the Republican majority in Augusta spent considerable time reviewing all aspects of welfare spending and made changes that the majority will appreciate, despite the loud complaints from a few in the minority. Perhaps it’s time to understand why these changes were made and how Maine compares to the rest of the country with regard to usage and eligibility.
TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) is a federally mandated program that requires participants to participate in jobs or training and allows them five years of benefits to do so. Participants are assigned a case worker (in addition to their DHHS primary caseworker) and must sign a commitment letter to meet certain goals during the program.
Governor Paul LePage and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais announced on Monday the next round of Maine cities and towns earning business-friendly status, including Lewiston and Auburn.
The communities were selected from a group of seven in the second round of the Governor’s business-friendly certification program.
“I want to thank and congratulate the communities of Pittsfield, Cumberland, Westbrook, Lewiston and Auburn for their continued commitment to business excellence,” said Governor LePage. “All of these communities are focused on creating a better environment for private sector job growth and driving our economy forward by reducing red tape and being open for business.”
By Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello
The 125th Legislature has concluded its legislative business. The Senate will reconvene briefly in September to consider gubernatorial nominations, but I am pleased to report that we have accomplished a lot on your behalf in a short period of time.
I can’t begin to tell you what an honor it is to represent you in the Maine Senate and to have contributed to one of the most transformative legislatures in recent memory. I am grateful for the trust you have placed in me to work for the citizens of District 15, our region and the State of Maine.
When this Legislature first convened in January 2011, few believed that we could accomplish much beyond addressing a budget shortfall that was close to $1 billion. Even fewer thought that we could do so in a predominantly bipartisan way.
We conducted our work in extraordinarily difficult times, with a “can do” approach, knowing that people and families are struggling. We have sought to move Maine forward, do more with limited resources, and protect our most vulnerable citizens.
The Maine Senate and House on Tuesday approved a Supplemental Budget designed to reduce spending on MaineCare and put the state’s social safety net on a sound footing for the future. Gov. Paul LePage was expected to sign bill.
On final party-line votes of 19-14 in the Senate and 75-61 in the House, Republicans passed structural changes to MaineCare that will lower costs and seeks to end annual budget shortfalls that have plagued state government for years and threaten funding for other vital state programs.
LD 1746, the Supplemental Budget bill, was modified significantly by Republicans on the Appropriations Committee from the original proposal submitted by Governor LePage, while concurring with his position that structural changes are needed to ensure that MaineCare and core state government programs remain sustainable going forward.
Rates for individual health care plans in Maine are set to drop as much as 60% this July as a result of health reform law PL 90, adopted in March 2011.
PL 90, the free-market-based health reform law, was passed last March by a Republican majority in Maine’s legislature. Governor Paul LePage signed the bill in a ceremony at the State House amid cries from Democrats who insisted it would not reduce costs.
“The law takes Maine in the wrong direction,” said Emily Cain, the house Democrat leader at the time the bill was passed.
But, if you’re a Mainer looking for individual health coverage, you’re going to be encouraged by the direction private health care costs are going: down.
By Lance Dutson, CEO
Maine Heritage Policy Center
Imagine if the State of Maine wrote you a check for $4,000.
That’s essentially what would happen if we eliminated Maine’s personal income tax. The average family of four would save nearly $4,000.
Think it’s impossible? Think again.
The personal income tax is a leash that pro-government forces have tied around the necks of Mainers for more than 30 years. Maine used to have a thriving economy and booming industries, but we all know that’s history.
The startling truth is that the decline of Maine’s economy started at nearly the exact time the state decided to implement the income tax. And it’s wreaked havoc on families and businesses ever since.
Maine consistently ranks among the worst states in the nation for business climate, and we have one of the highest tax burdens in the country. The income tax plays a major roll in this dynamic. Maine is well known as a big-government state that will squeeze every nickel out of its citizens, even to the detriment of the overall economy.
We can take a huge step toward ending this dynamic by eliminating the income tax.
By Senator Mike Thibodeau
and Senator Ron Collins
Just last week, Governor LePage deployed a previously unused provision in Maine law: the line-item veto. Passed during the King administration and supported by voters in a statewide referendum, the line-item veto can be used by governors to object to portions of a budget without vetoing the entire document.
The two items Governor LePage chose to veto were: a portion of the additional funds needed to cover a projected shortfall in the FY 2013 General Assistance allocation; and $3 million in “disproportionate share” funding to hospitals and psychiatric facilities in order to offset losses in federal funding.
If the Legislature were in session, we would take up a governor’s veto within the prescribed time limit of five days. However, the Legislature is adjourned until May 15. That’s when we will return to finalize work on the FY 2013 supplemental budget.
By Rep. Rich Cebra
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has some explaining to do.
On March 14, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revealed that the cost of the so-called Obamacare initiative has doubled. Two years ago, when the Affordable Care Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a razor thin margin—with no Republican votes—we were told that the 10-year cost of the plan would be $940 billion.
Democrats turned cartwheels around the Capitol because the grand total came in under $1 trillion. President Obama said if the cost had been higher, he would not have signed the bill.
It is now clear that the Democrats deliberately used phony numbers to drag this monstrosity across the line. The non-partisan CBO was told to “score” the 10-year cost from 2011 to 2020. But Obamacare does not start until 2014, so the CBO’s projection actually accounted for just six years of cost.
Now we’re told that Obamacare will cost $1.76 trillion from 2013 to 2022, the first nine years. Most likely the total from 2014 to 2023 will exceed $2 trillion, considering that the 2022 cost is now pegged at $265 billion.
By Senator Lois Snowe-Mello
Recently, the Legislature enacted changes to the Medicaid program designed to prevent a crisis in April, when the state was projected to run out of money. Failure to act would have resulted in a disruption of service for more than 300,000 Mainers served by Medicaid.
Many of the state’s providers would have gone without payment, with many shutting their doors or laying off workers. The magnitude of what the Legislature did cannot be understated given the deep philosophical divides present in what is very nearly an equally divided House and Senate. More on that shortly, but first a brief overview of the problem and how we got here is important.
In November, Governor LePage alerted us to a $221 million shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program. At that time, some 361,315 people were receiving benefits under that program. He also asserted that: since 2002, Medicaid enrollment has grown 78 percent, while Maine’s population grew only 7 percent; Maine insures 35 percent more of its population than the national average; and in 2008, Maine’s per capita Medicaid cost was $1, 895 per person vs. the national average of $1,187.
By Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Lewiston)
and Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston)
Recently lawmakers in Augusta passed a budget that resolves an immediate shortfall in the state’s health care program called MaineCare. MaineCare is a health care program that provides health insurance and prescription drug coverage for the elderly, disabled, mentally ill and the poor.
Seventy percent of enrollees are children, seniors or individuals with disabilities. MaineCare payments go to hospitals and health care providers to pay for care, not into the pockets of eligible individuals.
The budget that lawmakers passed rejects the worst of Governor Paul LePage’s irresponsible, illegal and dangerous proposals that have made headlines in the past four months. The budget also allows us to continue to preserve care for the elderly, disabled and children, while preventing drastic cuts to our local hospitals. These cuts would have shifted costs to municipalities and hospitals, caused job losses and resulted in increased insurance premiums for middle-class families across the state.
Local Democrats worked hard to mitigate the harm the governor’s original budget would have caused here in Lewiston. We worked with our hospitals and health care providers to present an alternative to the governor’s irresponsible proposal. If it were not for Democrats, 65,000 Maine people would no longer have health care on April 1.