April 16, 2011: Mitchell, LePage, budget

Posted April 15, 2011, at 5:17 p.m.

Libby Mitchell’s vision

As the founder of a small Maine nonprofit, I’m writing about Anthem’s unbelievable request for yet another rate hike.

I am concerned that Anthem’s continual rate hikes negatively impact the health, economic security and well-being of all many Mainers — both those paying these prohibitively expensive insurance premiums and everyone else, whose health care costs escalate wildly when people who can’t afford insurance end up in the emergency room for treatment.

Tell Anthem to leave their rates as they are, and let’s get on with implementing the creation of health insurance exchanges, marketplaces where individuals and businesses can purchase affordable coverage.

When Libby Mitchell ran for governor, she said creating an exchange was very doable and one of the first things she would work on. The hitch here is that Libby wasn’t elected, and Maine’s current governor isn’t  eager to pursue this.

As it’s up to the governor and Legislature of a state to implement an exchange, you and I are going to have to do a few things to make one happen: the first is to oppose Anthem’s request for rate increases. Call your legislator. Call the governor. Tell them to reject these rate increases and charge full speed ahead on making these health insurance exchanges a reality for Maine.

All Maine citizens should have affordable health care insurance options made available to them.

Mary Orear

Rockport

• • •

A job for the AG

Contrary to the Maine Attorney General’s claim of “government speech” as justification for the removal of the now-famous Labor Department murals, it is more like government censorship.

Attorney General Schneider, instead of helping Gov. LePage with thoughtful advice, is making matters worse by offering tortured, after-the-fact logic that few will believe as plausible.

If there is one department of government which should distance itself from loyal — some may say blind — partisanship, it is the Office of the Attorney General.

Our state needs solutions to economic challenges. I would respectfully suggest to our AG that his time would be better spent advising the 450 workers at the East Millinocket mill about how to best to organize into a viable legal entity and “buy” the facility for $1 from the current owner. After all, the workers know what to do; they have the expertise to operate the plant(s) successfully.

Instead of searching for another corporate buyer whose demands for millions in tax breaks as a precondition will be unbearable, why not form a public-private partnership with the state? This could become Maine’s Tennessee Valley Authority, based on our forests. Everyone would benefit. Where there is a ‘political’ will, there is a way. I am confident, once the word is out about the state’s commitment to the mill and it’s workers, that customers would return too.

What do you say, Mr. Attorney General and Gov. LePage? Is Maine really open for business, or has it all just been “government speech”?

Joe Lendvai

Brooklin

• • •

Save student programs

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson unveiled in his State of the Union address his “War on Poverty,” an ambitious effort to address the problem of persistent poverty in the United States.   Innovative education programs, referred to as TRIO programs, were developed to assist low-income youth and adults access postsecondary education.

TRIO is the umbrella program for Educational Opportunity Centers, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, Student Support Services, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science and the Veterans Upward Bound.

Nationally, the TRIO program serves nearly 840,000 students. In Maine, there are 21 TRIO programs that serve 5,945 students and bring $7.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education to assist low-income, potential first-generation college students, veterans and students with disabilities.

This week, the Obama administration came to an agreement with the House and Senate leadership to cut TRIO programs by $25 million. If this bill passes, another 100,000 young people and unemployed adults will be denied services. This is unacceptable. In Maine, the losses may be 4,100. These programs have helped more than 20,000 Mainers enroll in college.

Almost all the youth who drop out of high school are eligible for TRIO. This same population has an 8 percent chance of earning a four-year college degree by age 25. TRIO programs break the cycle of poverty through educational attainment, thus raising the standard of living and income of low-income Mainers. Please call our senators and congressional representatives and tell them to vote no on the FY ‘11 continuing budget resolution.

David Megquier

Ellsworth

• • •

The company we keep

So now, Maine’s attorney general supports the mural move as “free government speech” (BDN, April 12). Free speech for government is nothing new. China, Iran and North Korea have it too.

Phil Locke

Bangor

• • •

Open for what?

As the Republican Party’s position towards those who work has become clearer, it has occurred to me that it would be more accurate for Gov. LePage’s new highway greeting signs to read “Welcome To Maine — Open for Exploitation.”

Robert E. Meggison

Belfast

• • •

Pass LePage’s budget

Gov. LePage has received much negative press, but folks should look beyond petty skirmishes and see the larger picture. There is a campaign of misinformation by special interest groups whose cause will be harmed by the governor’s budget cuts.

I see the governor as an equal opportunity “cutter.” He is attempting to get the state out of debt and trying to get the economy moving. These special interest groups oppose welfare reform, changing the pension system, and would have you believe tax cuts are for the rich when they benefit more than 400,000 Mainers.

The pension fund will eat up about $2 of every $10 in taxes within five years if nothing is done. The welfare system in Maine is broken. There are folks who have been on the system for years who are capable of working. DHHS is already over budget this year by millions, and now the federal government wants $138 million back in overcharges.

And then there is the regulatory burden.

These are all issues the governor is acutely aware of and is trying to change. He has been in office a few months. It is time to give this guy a chance to prove himself as governor and lend support to the good things he is attempting to achieve with his budget.

The choice here is between the status quo — with industry continuing to trickle out or go out of business, go further into debt and pay the piper later — or a good economy with good jobs and a solvent state of Maine.

Robert Cox

Raymond

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