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May 12, 2011: Taxes, Collins, health care, UMS


A $1.50 tax hike on a $7 pack of cigarettes is being considered? This is gouging at its worst!

I remember not too long ago the state wanted to raise the tax on a soda by one penny and there was outrage in the state.

They say tobacco is the blame for health care costs in the state. Has anyone ever looked around? I think they need to raise the tax on cheeseburgers and ice cream, as I’m sure obesity is the No. 1 cause for high health care costs in this state.

The state took $46 million from the tobacco fund according to the Attorney General’s office. Who oversees how that money is spent? Now they want $1.50 per pack more! Someone needs a better budget plan. We already are taxed to death.

Jeff Brawn


• • •

Collins shows leadership

While I do not agree with every position taken by Sen. Susan Collins, I appreciate her common sense approach to foreign policy issues and her willingness to take a leadership role on important issues that are not on the agenda of the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate.

One such area where Collins has shown independent leadership is in genocide prevention. She co-sponsored S Con. Res. 71 in December which called for specific steps to improve U.S. capacity to prevent atrocities and episodes of genocide.

This resolution was a far-sighted endeavor to offset the immense disparity between our spending on military programs versus funds devoted to preventive diplomacy and timely aid in crisis situations around the world. (Even Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has called for better

balance between the Pentagon and the State Department in budget allocations.)

I commend Susan Collins for her support of genocide prevention legislation and encourage her to remain a champion of this urgent, timely issue.

James Matlack


• • •

Health plan questions

The rhetoric over the so-called health reform bill outstrips the reality. It is important to know that the provision to allow cross-state insurance purchase does not become effective until 2014.

As the BDN reported, sick people in the reinsurance plan cannot be charged more and will get the same health coverage as everybody else. That is an improvement over the original proposal, but it begs a question — how then will costs be lower?

The $4 tax on premiums probably will not cover the costs. That’s why the bill allows the board of directors of the new agency it creates to increase that tax beyond the $4 to cover losses. And the majority of that board making decisions about those taxes, whose revenues benefit insurance companies, will be insurance companies and brokers.

A reinsurance plan could be crafted to lower costs and protect older people, if time and temperament allowed.

While I served as Gov. Baldacci’s health policy adviser, we worked with the Legislature to craft a reinsurance plan that would have  lowered premiums significantly for younger people while protecting older folks from higher rates. It did so without overturning consumer protections that were crafted over several decades, often with bipartisan support. Regrettably, it was never implemented because a People’s Veto overturned the beverage taxes that funded it.

It is unfortunate the parties cannot craft a compromise and that lawmakers will cast votes without the ability to explain what the new health plans cover, at what premium rate and at what cost to all of us.

Trish Riley


• • •

University franchises

Perhaps someone at either the University of Maine System or in the Legislature could answer a question for me.

Recently there have been advertisements run in the BDN for summer programs at the Bangor campus of the University of Maine at Augusta. Why is there a campus of the University of Maine at Augusta in Bangor which is just down the street from the flagship campus at the University of Maine at Orono?

Perhaps more importantly, why is there a University of Maine at Augusta? Does its existence mean that the combined efforts of the University of Maine at Orono and the University of Southern Maine are insufficient to address the academic needs of students in Bangor?

Peter R. Roy


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