It is one thing to be an ideologue. Sen. Ted Kennedy was an ideologue. Gov. Meldrim Thomson, the arch-conservative former governor of New Hampshire, was an ideologue. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Socialist senator from Vermont, is an ideologue. But I have never known any of them to be coarsely, snidely and insultingly dismissive of people who did not agree with them.
Gov. Paul LePage, through his arrogant attitude and his ill use of words, has not only repeatedly disgraced the dignity of his office, he has turned Maine into a laughingstock.
Time for a little introspection, governor.
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Teachers and public employees in Maine did not cause our economic problems, and yet the state’s proposed budget would take more money out of our pockets, including those living in retirement on modest pensions.
I have read that following the downturn in 2008, assets of the Maine Public Employee Retirement System (or MePERS) were down to $6.7 billion. Those assets rebounded to $8.9 billion as of June 30 of last year, and now they’re valued at $10.5 billion, an improvement of 56 percent from 2008.
Proposed changes to MePERS by government intervention to restructure our agreements would freeze pension payments to retired teachers and public employees for three more years, then cut cost-of-living adjustments in half going forward. State contributions to MePERS would be reduced, and teachers and public employees would have two percent more of their salaries deducted to increase their payments.
That means we teachers on average will be “taxed” about $1,000 a year each, not so much to fix the pension system, but delivering lots more in tax-break returns to the wealthiest in Maine. Twisted logic is the wrong way to solve budget problems.
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Voter photos not needed
With so many important issues needing attention, namely the economy and jobs, why are we spending time and money on a new photo ID law, when we already have laws that protect the veracity of our elections?
The Bush administration conducted a high-profile, multiyear study ultimately concluding that there was virtually no evidence that systemic voter fraud is an issue.
Here in Maine we have a serious budget shortfall, and tweaking existing regulations and implementing them is expensive. In 2006, Missouri proposed the same photo ID legislation, which would have cost the state $6 million for the first year alone. North Carolina’s version’s lowest estimate was $18 to $25 million over three years.
Voter fraud is a serious crime, but we have existing laws that impose jail time and hefty fines. We need stop adding layers of complexity on existing laws and start addressing issues that have not yet been addressed.
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Union history is facts
I read about Gov. LePage removing the mural depicting the history of labor from the offices of the Maine Department. of Labor in Augusta because of its pro-union theme. When I recovered from being dumbstruck, I was angry.
There was a labor movement in this country. Whether one believes the labor movement was a good idea or not, that it happened is a fact. Should we remove all war memorials in our state because there may be those who perceive them as pro-war? The governor may want to take a walk over to the Maine State Museum and check out some of the exhibits. There is a lot of history there and propaganda may be lurking.
I come from a family of union workers. Both my grandfathers and my father belonged to labor unions. I am proud of this fact. I saw my father stand up respectfully to the powers that did not want to provide adequate conditions for their workers.
The people in our history who stood together and fought for workers’ rights did so because they had to right a wrong. They had to band together in an organized way to fight injustice and they did this by forming labor unions. Whatever the governor thinks about labor unions today, the history of the labor movement was important and the struggle in which they engaged made life livable for many people. That’s a fact.