June 1, 2011: We need Rosen’s help, GOP targeted workers

Posted May 31, 2011, at 6:13 p.m.

We need Rosen’s help

Sen. Richard Rosen is Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. We are two of his constituents and friends of public sector employees. Teachers, firefighters, nurses, state employees – public sector employees – are being targeted in the proposed biennial budget for reduced pension benefits, capped cost of living adjustments to just 2 percent a year (when oil, gasoline, food and medical costs are skyrocketing) and requiring retirees to pay for their health care, among other cuts.

A retired Maine public sector employee receives an average of only $19,000 in retirement pay. They are not eligible for Social Security and not eligible for Medicare.

Average Maine teacher salaries are below all but seven other states — ranking 43rd in the United States. Maine student achievement is much higher than 33 other states — ranking 17th nationally. Our teachers teach because they love the children, not for profit. They deserve to have pay, pension and health care promises kept. Good teachers are key to Maine’s economic growth.

The governor has said he wants tax cuts. The top 10 percent of earners would get 44 percent of the benefits and the bottom 40 percent would get just 9 percent of the benefit. On top of that, estate taxes are proposed to be reduced.

Sen. Rosen helped us fight against the proposed AES coal-fired power plant in the early 1990s. We need his help again.

We urge all to ask Sen. Rosen to make the budget fair and affordable for the majority of Maine’s citizens and our hard working public servants.

Phil and Pam Person

Orland

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GOP targeted workers

Sen. Kevin Raye says a Republican bill to end “fair share” provisions in public employee contracts has nothing to do with the state budget that must be passed in the coming days (BDN, May 27). Is he joking?

From the outset of this legislative session, Republicans have made clear their intent to diminish worker benefits as well as other conditions of employment. Under the Republican plan, working people pay more money to pensions and health care so Maine’s wealthier citizens can pay fewer taxes.

Suppressing debate and actuarial analysis, Republicans rammed through legislation that increases insurance company profits by mandating that the rest of us pay increased fees on our health insurance policies. This is Sen. Raye’s notion of “fair share.”

Sen. Raye has not shied from divisive issues that he favors and that invariably favor narrow business interests. Now he thinks it is a failure if Democrats keep Maine’s working people in mind as they negotiate a budget. Does Sen. Raye think we are forgetful? Stupid?

I expect my representatives in the House and Senate to negotiate the budget stubbornly because it is so closely related to Republican assaults on our common interests. These include public health, the environment, employee savings, and, yes, unions’ ability to collect service fees from those who benefit from representation.

Republicans made this budget session divisive months ago when they decided to use the hard-earned savings of school teachers and state employees to subsidize business profits and tax breaks for the rich.

Richard Brucher

Orono

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Unfair assessment

The viability of Aldersgate Methodist Church is threatened by tax assessments by the city of Rockland representing a 166 percent increase in valuation of our property since 2003.

The assessor asserted the property outside the footprint of the church is now subject to tax. The city values this land at $625,000 – a twenty-fold increase since we purchased it in 1994. Taxes on that scale threaten our existence, curtailing our ministry to 120 members and services and donations to the local food pantry, soup kitchen, and other local, national and global missions.

The church filed two abatement requests: the high assessment on its parsonage, and seeking exemption on the church’s driveway and parking lot, but did not prevail in either hearing. The assessor has broad authority to combine or reconfigure parcels and the board of appeals is predisposed to deny petitions, rarely challenging the assessor. The city determined that Aldersgate is not a charitable and benevolent organization (a designation that would have ensured exemption of the entire parcel), and offered no explanation for the high annual increases in assessments on the church’s parsonage property.

We don’t understand how our property (rocky, densely wooded, steep hillside and protected wetlands) became the focus of massive tax hikes, or why our church was singled out for canceling the exemption on surrounding property outside the footprint of the church. If this can happen to us, what protections do other churches and private homeowners have in the face of unfair assessments?

Kathy Lane

Chairwoman, Administrative Council

•••

Insurance law hurts

It is obvious from their letter in Saturday’s newspaper that our local Sens. Nichi Farnham and Richard Rosen didn’t even read the Republican health insurance bill for which they voted. By rushing this legislation through without public hearings was a disservice to the people and taxpayers of our state.

Letter-writer Norm Minsky was correct in observing that the bill these senators voted for was a sell-out of us as their constituents here in eastern Maine in favor of party loyalty to LePage. In the same edition of the BDN, Meg Haskell did a review of the bill which fairly completely contradicted everything that our local senators said in their letter.

The law does allow insurance companies to raise rates on the elderly and those who live in rural areas. The law does reduce regulation of insurance companies. And the law does one thing I never thought these Republicans would do which is to raise taxes.

I pay like so many other Mainers for health insurance for myself and my family. This bill will tax my premiums by between $200-$250 per year — and it’s not like what any of us pay now for health insurance is cheap. This tax is now going to subsidize insurance companies —just what we all voted for last year right?

I think we in Maine can do better but not with this current crew. We need legislators who are awake to what their constituents want.

Joe Baldacci

Bangor

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Half-staff, full-staff

During Memorial Day, flags should be at half-staff until noon, then raised to full-staff.

It would be a service to the community if a small note or diagram could be placed on the front page of the newspaper, explaining this protocol. This would encourage businesses to put the flag at the proper height. It shows a lack of community spirit when some flags are up and some at half-staff.

I am sure an American Legion post would help with this posting

Bruce Boyd

Glenburn

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