Communication is key
As a 37-year resident and business owner in Searsport, I hope to continue both roles for the rest of my life. My life’s narrative here is both quintessential and unexceptional, except for the number of extraordinary potential threats to the town and our existence occurring through the years, the most recent being the proposed LPG mega-tank.
The planning board must apply 18 performance standards of its ordinance to every applicant, but they also contain subjective interpretations and approximations, which require the board’s judgment in assessing the suitability of the proposal, while protecting the health, safety and welfare of the town’s residents. “Welfare” refers to the economic well-being of the community and the ability to maintain the balance between residential, commercial and industrial interests by attracting all three types of newcomers. Revenues and municipal services depend on the well-being of the environment and tourism that support those interests.
The state agencies’ permitting processes of this applicant have been seriously flawed, but this hasn’t entered the board’s decision-making in declaring the application complete, making the process highly suspect and irregular. We have the results of two studies coming: an economic impact report and the Good Harbor Consulting hazard/risk assessment. They must be given fair consideration, and people must be allowed to comment freely as is our traditional right. The potential scope of this proposed development dictates further information, and clarification is imperative. To base a decision on faulty data or misguided opinions is unacceptable at best and irresponsible at worst.
For everyone’s sake, please keep the door to communication and your minds open.
Phyllis W. Sommer
Taxes and services
Nobody likes to pay taxes, but by the same token no one seems overly eager to do without the services that those taxes pay for, either. When I was member of the select board here in Rockport I rarely heard a citizen testify for fewer services for themselves or their community.
As a relatively prosperous town with an expanding tax base, we’ve been able to meet our growing public needs without raising our property tax mil rate, even in the face of declining state aid and reimbursement. Other Maine towns aren’t so well-positioned. And even Rockport is feeling the squeeze: Local schools, which use a large portion of our tax dollars, must deal with unfunded education mandates frequently descending from the state and federal governments.
So taxes are necessary, but so is making sure those taxes are fair. Tax equity comes from asking more of those better able to give. A good example would be to let Bush-era income tax cuts expire on the two percent of American households making over a quarter million dollars a year, while extending the cut for the 98 percent of households below that income level.
With the hundreds of billions of dollars that would be raised over the coming decade, the federal government could bring down its debt, while also easing the budget crises of states like Maine, which in turn could better support its towns. That’s the kind of wise tax policy Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe should support in this year’s deficit-reduction negotiations.
Improved health care is just one of the benefits we could enjoy if our state and federal governments collected enough revenue to properly serve our needs as a people. Instead, our already insufficient health-care system is being further diminished in Augusta and Washington by spending cuts, cuts only made necessary by out-of-whack budgets that don’t ask enough of those best able to contribute to the common good.
As a pharmacist, I come into contact every day with heartbreaking stories of suffering caused by inadequate medical insurance. While I believe the best ultimate solution is a single-payer system, even incremental change such as is represented by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) takes increased public investments, though in the long run, having more Americans insured is not only more humane but will save money as well.
What stands in the way of those smart investments? One impediment comes from the state’s and nation’s wealthiest citizens and most profitable corporations not paying their fair share in taxes.The percentage of national revenue provided by them is at a 60-year low.
We can start to reverse that troubling trend by allowing tax cuts to expire at the end of this year on household income above a quarter million dollars.
This return to more reasonable rates for the rich would raise nearly a trillion dollars over the next decade, allowing us to reduce debt and invest in ourselves. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins should support this rational tax measure as part of any budget deal.
George Smith, in his blog, writes ‘Thinking I saw a bit of movement to the side of the stump, I aimed at that spot and fired.” Hard to believe this man was the head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine for 18 years. Shameful.
Here are two myths about taxes that I might be able to dispel just in time for the big “fiscal cliff” Congressional budget debate. I’m not claiming any special knowledge, millions of people could make these points.
First, small businesses don’t make hiring or other financial decisions based on the federal tax levied on the highest-income taxpayers. That’s both because very few small businesses fall into that top tax bracket, and because there are so many more important factors involved, first and foremost customer demand. This was certainly my experience as a builder. So claims that allowing tax cuts to expire on the top 2 percent of households and 3 percent of businesses, those earning over $250,000 a year, would somehow inhibit job growth are just ridiculous.
Second, taxes are not collected on a whim: they pay for goods and services we all need and use. I sent my two boys to public schools, I drive on public highways, I rely on public health officials to keep my food safe and prevent epidemics. So the real question isn’t whether we need taxes, but who should pay how much. When we’re in the midst of a debt crisis and need to bolster middle-class support programs like Medicare, it makes sense to ask more from those with most to give.
I’m betting Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe will see through the myths and stick
to the facts in this year’s important deficit-reduction negotiations.
Paul O. Sylvain