Saturday/Sunday, March 31-April 1, 2012: MEA, tree growth and state cuts

Posted March 30, 2012, at 6:17 p.m.

Shame on MEA

In its March newsletter, “Maine Educator,” the MEA boldly calls Rep. Jonathan McKane “and others” liars who are “attacking educators, public education and the MEA.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am assuming that they are referring to McKane’s OpEd in the BDN, “For MEA, education excellence takes a backseat to politics.” I’ve reread the column and I find nothing negative about teachers or public education, only about the MEA, and what he said was true.

The MEA has become little more than a subsidiary of the Maine Democratic Party. It shows its blatant bias every month in its newsletter attacking Gov. LePage and anyone who doesn’t agree with its liberal, big-labor ideas. It endorses Democrats and supports Democratic bills 99.9 percent of the time.

It is not surprising the MEA attacks Rep. McKane in the newsletter, where he can’t respond to these outrageous statements.

Ultimately it is tax dollars, and millions of them, that fund the MEA. This money spent on this labor union is not helping educate our children.

Shame on you, MEA!

Jim Carlton

Damariscotta

Tree growth clarification

It is heartening to see that the Maine Tree Growth Tax Program is under scrutiny. The intent and general application of the program are worthwhile. Landowners engaged in forestry, on a small or large scale, are taxed based on their use of the land, not on its “highest use” potential.

Unfortunately it is a loosely regulated program that invites almost anyone with 10 or more acres to reap the tax break. When that involves shorefront and summer-use residential and recreational property, the tax break is enormous.

There is one misconception from recent articles that needs to be corrected; that is, that the tree growth law prevents “prized forest land from being developed.” This notion is based on the provision that if an owner wishes to withdraw land from tree growth and open it to development, a hefty fine for withdrawal would be levied.

The fact is, state law provides a nifty loophole that significantly reduces that penalty. A landowner wishing to develop tree growth land can, without penalty, convert it to another “current use” program and then withdraw it from that program, paying a significantly smaller penalty.

A case in point in Surry: A 10-plus acre shorefront residential property, with market value in the $1 million range, enjoyed significant tax reductions while in tree growth for 30 years. Recently withdrawn from the program so that it could be sold, the tree growth penalty calculated out to be in excess of $110,000. But, utilizing the loophole, the penalty was reduced to $17,000.

Surry Board of Selectmen

Steve Bemiss

Dale Sprinkle

Bill Matlock

Make smart cuts

Soon the Appropriations Committee and the full Legislature will finalize proposals to address the remaining budget challenges for the Department of Health and Human Services. As business people, we know that the state has to balance the need for services with limited resources. Tough choices will be required.

But our choices should not only be tough, they should be smart. A good businessperson knows when to cut and when to invest, and as employers, we know that one of our best investments is in our employees.

The proposed cuts in The Fund for Healthy Maine will unravel our public health infrastructure. This will make it tougher to combat tobacco use, obesity, substance abuse and diseases through vaccinations. This is shortsighted.

As the sponsoring organization for the Wellness Council of Maine, we know worksite wellness programs improve health and cut costs. We also know that the Healthy Maine Partnership greatly enhances workplace wellness programs.

Here in our community, we’ve seen the benefits first-hand. Thanks to the infrastructure of the Bangor Healthy Maine Partnership Program, the Bangor Public Health Department, with established partnerships with Eastern Maine Health Systems, St. Joseph Hospital, Penobscot Community Health Care area nursing schools and the county, quickly mobilized hundreds of health care volunteers to administer about 8,000 H1N1 immunizations.

Their work saved businesses thousands that would otherwise have been lost through absenteeism.

The Fund for Healthy Maine is a smart investment, and we urge legislators to preserve it as they tackle our budget challenges.

M. Jane Irving

Chair Elect

Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce

Remembering Sen. Sam

When we lose someone of great stature from our public discourse, I think we should pause to reflect upon what that person’s service has meant to our state. Such was the case last year when we lost Joe Sewall and now with last week’s death of Sam Collins.

Both were Republican senators in Augusta where I had the privilege to work with them (as a junior Democrat!). Sam Collins, the quiet senator from Aroostook, by way of Knox County, led us to the adoption of the probate code and the criminal code, the most significant codifications of Maine law in the last century.

Ever courteous and respectful, when Sen. Sam pulled his long frame up to speak in the Senate, everyone listened.

What they heard was invariably a thoughtful and reasoned discussion of policy, spoken with heartfelt belief and without invective toward those who disagreed. I served in Augusta for over 16 years and I never met a finer person than Sam Collins. Maine lost a great leader last week.

Michael Carpenter

Houlton

‘Overwhelmingly’ underwhelmed

It is well known that the school district consolidation process has been painful for the adults and children in many Maine communities. However, for the BDN to describe the recent vote of Glenburn and Veazie residents as “overwhelmingly” in favor of petitions to withdraw from RSU 26 is exaggeration, at best.

In Glenburn, only 358 voters participated in the process, representing a mere 12 percent of active voters in the town, or scarcely half the turnout for comparable referendum elections. In Veazie, whose successful collaborative school union with Orono predates consolidation by many years, only 173 favored withdrawal, less than 14 percent of registered voters. The entire turnout in Veazie was not even a third of the number that typically vote in a referendum of this type.

Given the tensions already generated by an exhausting and difficult budget process this year, the inflammatory misrepresentation of pro-withdrawal sentiment among a vocal minority is a disservice to the many school leaders and citizens who are working together thoughtfully to ensure the best possible education for all our communities’ children.

Mary Dickinson Bird

Orono

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