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Friday, April 20, 2012: Unemployment, heat pumps and Huntington’s disease

Continual tax burdens

Today we find ourselves gravely disappointed and frustrated by news from our state government. The result of this news is that an inequitable tax burden will continue to be placed on our small business and specifically on the horticultural industry in the great state of Maine.

Despite numerous legislative efforts over the past 10-plus years (which have all had support by the Legislature), the Appropriations Committee has again refused to accommodate the inclusion of horticulture in the definition of agriculture within the state sales tax code as part of the Governor’s supplemental budget recommendations.

It is quite plain and simply unfair policy. It is time that the state of Maine stepped up to do the right thing. Every other state in the nation as well as the federal government recognizes that growing plants is a form of agriculture in statutory regulations of this kind.

Succeeding in small business is challenge enough in the State of Maine. For more than 60 years we have managed to sustain and grow a family-owned business which is valued by our customers and supports three generations of our family as well as valued employees.

We have always grown something — from poultry to peppers to petunias. Petunias are “agriculture” as much as other crops and should be fairly treated as such by the Maine government.

Thomas A. Estabrook

Estabrook’s Garden Centers

Yarmouth, Scarborough, Kennebunk

U.S. becoming like Greece

The unemployment rate of 8.2 percent represents about 14 million people who are unemployed but still looking for work; this is up from eight million who were unemployed but still looking for work under the Bush administration.

What the 8.2 percent unemployment rate doesn’t show is the 20 million people who have lost their jobs but are no longer looking for work.

We’ve reached the point where 52 percent of our population pays income taxes and 48 percent of our population pays no income taxes — this represents about 135 million people who are either working or looking for work and about 85 million people who are not looking for work, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

This appears to be a permanent, unsettling condition in which our country, like Eastern Europe, is being divided by those who work versus those who are, regardless of the reason, either seeking or living off government benefits.

Our capitalist economy is being asked to pull an ever-increasing load of big-government welfare where fewer and fewer workers, the 52 percent, are being taxed to effectively support 48 percent of the population. At the rate we’re taxing and spending, it won’t be long before these numbers flip into a slippery slope where those who have simply won’t be able to afford to carry those who have not.

The U.S. is becoming like Greece. From a kitchen table economics perspective, we can’t afford to live beyond our means any more than we can afford to police the New World Order.

Hayes Gahagan


Heat pump reduced costs

Last fall we installed a mini-split heat pump in our home at the recommendation of our son, who had been researching this new technology. We were looking for a less expensive way to heat our house, and were also interested in reducing our carbon footprint as well as reducing our dependence on oil. The experience we had this winter exceeded our expectations by far. We reduced our oil consumption (from an average of 700 gallons per year to 73 gallons this year), and our cost of heating was reduced by over 50 percent.

The mini-split heat pump heats by zones, the closer one is to the pump, the warmer the room. We kept our living room toasty warm at 70-72 degrees or higher. The rest of the house stayed in the mid-sixties, the temperature we kept our house when heating with oil.

Mini-split heat pumps are an attractive option for Mainers. Since it takes the heat from the air (as geothermal units take heat from the ground), there is no need to purchase fuel and maintenance is minimal. It is easy to install, and will pay itself off in less than three years in our case.

Sharon Barker, John Hoyt


Huntington’s Disease Act Sponsors

I am writing to strongly urge Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to cosponsor the Huntington’s Disease Parity Act (S. 648) and to urge Rep. Chellie Pingree to cosponsor the House companion (H. 718). If passed, the Huntington’s Disease Parity Act would enable people with Huntington’s disease, or HD, to receive Social Security Disability and Medicare benefits when they truly become disabled. Social Security Disability is still using medical guidelines for HD that are 30 years old. The extremely damaging cognitive and behavioral symptoms that cause people to lose their jobs and sometimes their families are not included in the 30-year-old regulations. The bill would update the criteria using current medical guidelines, finally putting people with Huntington’s Disease on a par with those who are otherwise disabled.

I am proud to say that Rep. Mike Michaud has co-sponsored the bill in the past two Congresses. My dream is to see the whole slate of our Maine legislators signing on.

I have visited the offices of our senators and urged them to put their names on the list with the other respected senators who have taken the lead to sponsor and cosponsor this bill. Maine families with HD would be honored and grateful to see the names of all their senators and representatives as co-sponsors. There is so little that can be done for this disease; the Huntington’s Disease Parity Act is one thing that could help.

Nancy Patterson

Maine affiliate chair

Huntington’s Disease Society of America


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