December 14 Letters to the Editor

Posted Dec. 13, 2009, at 7:25 p.m.

Budget disaster looms

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, the Maine Legislature convenes for its second session. The state’s grim economic condition will dominate the proceedings.

The centerpiece of this session will be a supplemental budget to cut $383 million from the $5.8 billion two-year budget that began back in July. Tax revenues from all major sources continue to come in well under projections.

Cutting $383 million will present a monumental challenge. But one thing is clear: Major structural changes are now essential, because the next budget — for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 — looks even worse. Without deep changes in the way state government operates, the next Legislature will face a virtually impossible task.

Consider that the early estimates for the next budget assume revenues will fall short by $300 million from already-low projections.

Consider also that the state retirement system for teachers and state workers will require a General Fund expenditure of $900 million to $1 billion to cover investment losses. The pension system is being appropriated $436 million in the current budget to cover its unfunded liability. Now the state will be constitutionally obligated to increase funds to the retirement system by at least $500 million.

But the biggest problem in the next budget will be the end of the stimulus money. That cash windfall has provided Maine with about $800 million, much of which went for MaineCare and public education.

Without the stimulus cushion, the current budget would have required deep program cuts. When that money dries up in 2011, things will become very tough indeed.

Rep. Everett McLeod

Lee

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EMCC a star

Fifty-four seniors recently attended a fabulous experience at an amazing school. The seniors were members of Penobscot Valley Senior College and the school was Eastern Maine Community College. Guided tours created a close-up view of great facilities, interactive classrooms, green buildings, dedicated staff and enthusiastic students. Houses being built, nurses being trained, auto mechanics working on vehicles, and culinary arts students preparing an elegant feast, made us all aware of future work forces graduating with real and practical skills along with college level math and science courses to go on for a four-year degree if they wish. EMCC is an often unrecognized star on the educational stage.

These seniors will be telling their grandchildren to take a look. Why not visit for yourself.

Diane Cutler

Orono

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Misguided group

On the front page of the BDN, Dec. 5-6 issue, there was an article about a small group of clergy in the Bangor area protesting abortion limits. They are truly misguided.

In the proposed health care reform legislation, there are proposed amendments that would prohibit federal funds from being used to subsidize private insurance policies for abortions. Rabbi Darah Lerner is quoted, “It would be like excluding prostate cancer from men’s health care coverage unless they purchase a separate rider.” Her statement is preposterous. Rabbi Lerner should know that a prostate does not have its own blood type, nervous system, DNA and heartbeat.

Mike Marshall

Princeton

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Proliferation of guns

Let me add a few thoughts to Ken Horn’s fine OpEd “Proliferation of guns threatens security” (BDN, Dec. 4). When the Constitution was written, firearms were relatively primitive. For each shot you wanted to fire, you had to load your weapon in a rather awkward, time-consuming process.

Only in the 19th century were the revolver and repeating rifle invented, to be followed by the heavy machine gun. In the 20th century came the portable submachine gun, automatic and semiautomatic rifles and pistols, and assault weapons with large magazines.

The Founding Fathers would probably have been horrified by these modern weapons and the real reason why they were invented: To make it easy to kill people. Now it is possible for a single crazed person to massacre two dozen people or more in a few minutes with one or two handguns.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution refers to a “well regulated Militia.” In my opinion, the words “well-regulated” give Congress the authority to control the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition.

The Supreme Court recently held that Americans have an individual right to own firearms, but that this right is not unlimited. For example, there are already laws prohibiting the possession of guns by felons or people who have been found guilty of domestic violence. But Ken Horn is absolutely right; we need stricter laws and stricter enforcement.

Karl K. Norton

Bangor

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Right to own guns

Ken Horn feels that our Founding Fathers would be “devastated” to know that their intent in the Second Amendment was being taken out of context, and as a result innocent people are being maimed and killed (BDN, Dec. 4). According to him, all of us who believe that law-abiding citizens have the rights that are in that Second Amendment are guilty of accessory to murder.

Let’s go back to just what the context of the Second Amendment was at the time it was written. The colonists had just overthrown a tyrannical government. The event that triggered the beginning on the revolution was the attempt to confiscate all the guns and ammunition that the colonist had.

In writing the Bill of Rights our Founding Fathers saw the importance in protecting that right of the people to bear arms, to protect against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If the Second Amendment was interpreted to mean only the government could have guns, then what?

Mr. Horn also states that if there were fewer guns there would be less gun violence. According to that report, since 1991, the nation’s total violent crime rate dropped 40 percent to a 35-year low. The murder rate has dropped 45 percent to a 43-year low. During that same period the number of privately owned firearms rose by more than 80 million to an all-time high.

Gun ownership by responsible law-abiding citizens is a deterrent to violent crime. Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They knew what they intended and it’s working.

Chris Kravitt

Waltham

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