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Friday, March 30, 2012: Property rights, tax loopholes and education standards


Property rights relative

In a March 20 BDN OpEd in support of the LURC reform bill, Sen. Doug Thomas characterized those opposing this reform as “anti-private property groups” and “those opposed to private property rights.”

However, the east-west highway project, for which Sen. Thomas is the main legislative proponent, would necessitate taking by eminent domain scores of small private properties from unwilling landowners through the heart of Piscataquis County and elsewhere.

Exactly whose side are you on, Sen. Thomas?

Peter Brenc


Cut tax loopholes

Every business, from large multinational giants to ordinary Main Street small businesses, benefits from our roads, education system and security. Yet large corporations are able to use loopholes in the tax code to skip out on paying for the American infrastructure that helps them do business, while responsible small businesses and ordinary taxpayers are left to shoulder their tax burden.

One of the most egregious ways multinational giants shirk their tax burden is by using armies of tax attorneys to make profits legitimately made in America magically appear on the books in shell companies in the Cayman Islands, where they don’t have to pay taxes. Offshore tax havens cost an estimated $100 billion every year in lost revenue which could be better spent investing in our crumbling roads and bridges or any number of public priorities.

Our elected leaders need to close these corporate tax loopholes, ensuring that large corporations join citizens and small businesses in contributing to the structures that help them do business. The CUT Loopholes Act that is before Congress right now would do just that and Sens. Snowe and Collins should show leadership by supporting it.

Hilary Sinauer


Don’t mandate standards

Several Maine education consultants have lobbied the Legislature to pass LD 1422, which mandates standards-based instruction, or SBE. SBE moves away from traditional grades and grade levels. SBE systems use a 1-4 grading scale through high school. Students move at their own pace through standards, not grades. Public schools will soon teach standards in a different way than private schools and town academies.

The Great Schools Partnership and New England Secondary Schools Consortium are powerful consultants in the state. The GSP has a staff of 17. It brought in nearly $900,000 in “school contracts” and $900,000 in grant money in 2010.

Once LD 1422 passes, districts will hire consultants to train all teachers in SBE. New grading software will need to manage SBE. Online instruction will increase to allow all students to move at different paces.

Maine will soon discontinue the use of our current state tests, NECAP and SAT. We will adopt a new test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Susan Gendron, Maine’s former education commissioner, is the policy coordinator for the SBA. Massachusetts selected the PARCC assessment instead of the SBA. Why?

The SBA is adaptive, a perfect fit for standards-based instruction. No two students take the same test (no norm referencing). The accountability in public education will change from grade-level performance to moving students forward on a list of standards at a varied pace.

Contact your elected officials to ask them to slow down LD 1422. SBE should be a local decision, not a mandate.

Beth Schultz


Money well-spent

In early January, we wrote a letter to the editor asking the Legislature to preserve state funding for Head Start and home visiting. We now want to thank them for doing so in the recently enacted fiscal year 2012 supplemental budget.

Head Start and home visiting programs offer Maine’s youngest at-risk children and their families important early interventions. These services aimed at helping young children can help steer them toward long-term academic and social success and away from crime.

Supporting our youngest kids with research-proven programs such as these are important for future positive outcomes for both the children and for our communities. Studies have shown that kids who participate in high-quality early learning programs are better prepared as they enter school, perform better academically and are more likely to graduate on time. Most important to us as law enforcement leaders, these children are also much less likely to be involved in serious crime.

Voluntary home visiting programs can help reduce child abuse and neglect, strengthen families and keep children out of abusive environments. These programs often help break a terrible cycle of violence. These are all great outcomes for kids that also lead to increased public safety. We therefore ask that legislators continue to support these critical services that benefit Maine’s youngest citizens as they undertake the fiscal year 2013 supplemental budget proposal.

And we thank our legislators for their support of Maine’s youngest and most at-risk children.

Glenn Ross

Penobscot County Sheriff

President of the Maine Sheriffs Association

Michael Gahagan, Caribou Police Chief

President of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association

Collins protects jobs, environment

Sen. Susan Collins has a long record defending Maine jobs. She also has been a staunch supporter of protecting the environment. So it was not surprising that Sen. Collins recently tried to modify EPA’s new boiler rules in a way consistent with both of these principles.

What was surprising was Lisa Pohlmann’s misguided criticism of Sen. Collins in her March 25 opinion piece.

The eight mills represented by the Maine Pulp and Paper Association estimate that compliance with the EPA boiler rules would cost more than $60 million, with compliance costs for certain individual mills in the tens of millions of dollars. These costs would put our mills at serious risk as they compete with mills across the globe.

Maine’s pulp and paper mills provide more than 7,000 direct jobs, primarily in the rural parts of our state, and support as many as 35,000 indirect jobs across Maine.

To protect both jobs and the environment, Sen. Collins introduced legislation to allow EPA the time it requested to revise the boiler rules and establish achievable, real world standards. Ironically, EPA unsuccessfully petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court for exactly the same thing.

Sen. Collins’ job-saving measure received bipartisan support from a majority of the Senate, but failed to get the required 60 votes for passage. We hope that she, and the entire Maine delegation, will continue their efforts to pass similar legislation.

Better regulations can be crafted to protect the environment while promoting manufacturing jobs. Sen. Collins’ leadership provides the way forward.

John Williams


Maine Pulp and Paper Association

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