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June 3 Letters to the Editor

Keep tax reform alive

I found it ironic that on the same day the BDN runs an editorial offering strong support for the Legislature’s tax reform plan (LD 1088), the Realtors’ association runs a full page ad against it (apparently to protect clients with properties worth $500,000 or more – hardly the average Mainer.)

This is an example of a powerful, well-financed lobbying group thwarting the long overdue and well-crafted tax reform package that is finally coming forward after many years of hard work and special interest barriers. The ad, of course, only tells half the story — conveniently omitting that Mainers overall will pay less in taxes if LD 1088 passes.

I worked at the State Planning Office during the King administration. Laurie Lachance, then our state economist and now president of Maine Development Foundation implored policymakers to address our antiquated narrow sales tax base with its high volatility and irrelevance to our service-based economy.

Many efforts to accomplish tax reform since then have run aground due to the special interest lobbyists and the impact of half-truth ads like this one.

No one likes paying or collecting taxes; it’s always easy to fan the flames of opposition. But failing to act hurts our overall economy.

The BDN editorial board got it right. Maine desperately needs to reform its tax structure. Policymakers of all parties know it’s needed. We have before us a credible plan to get the job done. Let’s hope it doesn’t get derailed by special interests and narrow thinking (again).

Mary Ann Hayes



Happy to be Catholic

The University of Notre Dame made me happy and proud to be a Catholic.

Father John Jenkins, ND’s president, graciously welcomed President Obama, and said he was not the kind of president who stops talking to people who disagree with him and neither was he.

In his speech, the president said, “Open hearts. Open minds.

“Fair-minded words. It’s a way of life that has always been the ND tradition.” The institution is said to be “both a lighthouse that stands apart with the wisdom of Catholic tradition, [and a] crossroads where ‘differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love.’”

He said, “Maybe we don’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that it is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, both with moral and spiritual dimensions. I do not suggest that the debate on abortion can or should go away [because] at some level the views of both camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

On stem cell research, Obama said, “Those who speak against stem cell research may [believe in] the sacredness of life, but so [do] the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.”

Thousands of frozen stem cells are destroyed by law every year because their owners decide they don’t need them. Only these cells are allowed for research.

Elbridge Gagnon



Recruiting immigrants

Last week’s wise BDN editorial, “Old, White Maine” (May 19), added to growing awareness in the state that immigration is essential to Maine’s economic future. Our past economic growth was fueled by waves of immigration as documented in the wonderful new exhibit at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

Here are the facts: Demographic studies indicate that more than a third of Maine’s future labor force will have to be immigrants. The Maine Center on Economic Policy reports that in 2002, there were 731 Hispanic-owned businesses in Maine generating $113 million in revenue. These numbers have increased and businesses owned by Asians, South Asians, Africans and Europeans now proliferate in Maine.

When new arrivals, entrepreneurs, professionals and work force additions are helped to overcome obstacles, they commit their life and labor to Maine. The result has been an increase in economic vitality, tax revenue at the local, state and federal levels, and culturally enriched communities, for a total gain that far exceeds the cost of assistance.

It may be true, as your editorial suggests, that we should be

recruiting immigrants. Maine actually did that in 1870 when the Legislature created a Board of Immigration that sent Widgery Thomas to Sweden. Thomas returned with 51 men, women and children – all recruited as farmers and given homesteads. Before long, Maine had three new towns: New Sweden, Stockholm and Jemtland. Our task in 2009 is to do a better job of welcoming the new Mainers who arrive in our communities.

Ron Stegall

Deer Isle

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