Lights, camera … The Maine Legislature has voted on numerous bills; Hampden postal workers, Maine roads and coffee drinkers have received encouraging news; and reducing the income tax rate continues to stir debate. Here’s a summary of our thoughts on the last couple days of headlines:
Both the Maine House and Senate approved late Wednesday five separate bond issues totalling $95.7 million. The decision to fund transportation projects, research and development, water and sewer systems, public higher education and the Land for Maine’s Future program brings the proposals a big step closer to voters, who should have final say.
Now we wait to see whether Gov. Paul LePage follows through and approves the bills. ( He previously said the budget should be balanced before taking on bonds). Then we can turn our attention to a different kind of Bond: James Bond — Skyfall is scheduled to be released in November.
We’re glad there’s a 2013 budget for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. But approving it along party lines for the first time since 2005? Is this Congress? We think the two sides could have found a way to compromise by easing up on some of the Republican-proposed cuts to programs and slowing down on some of their tax cuts.
We’re OK with some of the Republicans’ eliminations (such as $1.25 million for family reunification contracts, as there are 1,800 fewer children in need of the service), but they didn’t need to go as far as they did, such as by cutting $2 million from Head Start. We’re talking about providing child care services for working families. It’s not just a social issue but a long-term economic one.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service has established new standards that will maintain overnight delivery, ensuring that the Eastern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Hampden will continue to operate.
Talk about it coming down to the wire: the postmaster general revealed the decision about a day before the plant was scheduled to be consolidated with the processing facility in Scarborough. OK, so Congress now needs to focus on stemming the postal service’s $23 million-per-day-loss problem, but we can celebrate quickly, right? Anyone up for a stamp trading party?
Maine Republicans gave final passage to a bill late Wednesday that aims to reduce the income tax to a flat 4 percent rate. When the reserves are available, the state would put 20 percent of money that now goes into the rainy day fund into an account to gradually lower the income tax rate.
A problem occurs, though, when the state reaches that 4 percent rate and there’s no reserve money left to pay for the tax cut. It’s a concern for credit ratings agencies and even some top Republicans.
Let’s end on a caffeine high. Java drinkers are slightly more likely to live longer, according to a new study of about 400,000 people that began in 1995. While the study doesn’t prove cause and effect, the results are encouraging for our newsroom, which always has a steady supply of coffee.