With all this talk about new scratch tickets, I have come up with one of my own. Let’s have a pothole ticket with the proceeds earmarked for specific poorly maintained Maine roads.
For instance, the Route 1 or the Airline ticket — scratch and find three potholes — win $2. Find a bent rim? Double your prize. Imagine the excitement.
Thank you, Sandy Oliver
I want to thank Sandy Oliver of the BDN blog Taste Buds for a lovely evening. I enjoyed a delicious chicken curry dinner tonight with my husband and look forward to mulligatawny soup another night
No publicly funded pensions
I do not agree with the proposal to deny pension benefits to one-term governors. But I do question the practice of paying state and federal pensions to elected officials.
Why should anyone who chooses to run for public office be granted any government pension, other than Social Security or any other plan set up and paid into by the individual for retirement income?
Career civil servants and members of the military certainly should receive pensions but not the people who serve in elective office by the consent of the people. If readers talk to anyone about the pensions received by U.S. senators and representatives, I’m certain the vast majority will say that they are an unnecessary expense of government, paid for by the people.
The founders of our republic did not envision the kind of golden nest egg our professional politicians receive today. Once again, the example of Harry S. Truman stands forth. He left the presidency with no pension and no government benefits except a Secret Service agent and an allowance for office expenses. We need to get back to the original idea of limited public service by individuals and adopt reasonable term limits for state and federal elected office, with no publicly funded pensions.
A pension plan
Recent legislation submitted by state Sen. Troy Jackson concerning pension rules for the governor is interesting, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Here is what should happen, effective immediately: Every single newly hired or elected state employee — teachers, road workers, toll collectors, legislators and governors — should be signed up for two types of retirement programs. The first would be Social Security, and the Maine State Retirement System should be shut down, effective now. The Second would be a 401(k)/403(b) defined contribution plan in which the employee makes contributions as a wage deferral, and the state makes a reasonable matching contribution.
The Legislature would annually vote on how much the match should be, and it would apply to all state employees. All the normal rules should apply.
When the governor’s or legislator’s term is completed, he or she would simply roll the 401(k)/403(b) account into an IRA or into his or her next employer’s 401(k)/403(b) plan. Also, post-retirement health insurance should be immediately ended for all former state employees.
Making sense of health care dollars
Accepting federal funds to expand health care coverage in Maine makes sense. Maine has an opportunity to cover more people and save millions of dollars currently spent to treat uninsured people in emergency rooms.
If the state does not accept these federal funds already set aside for Maine, taxpayers will be helping pay for health coverage for other states, while foregoing the potential benefit of those dollars here in Maine. Experts estimate that expanding coverage will bring $250 million in federal dollars to the state annually, helping generate $350 million in economic activity.
What does this mean for Penobscot County?
Counties with a higher proportion of jobs in the health care sector stand to gain the most economic benefit. In Penobscot County, one in five jobs is in a health care related industry. New jobs will help rebuild the economy in this region.
Thousands will obtain health coverage. They are our neighbors, family, friends and coworkers. Many are low-wage earners, working in retail, food services, hospitality and manufacturing, with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Most can’t afford health insurance.
Providing health coverage to more people in Maine improves the health of our citizens and our economy. The decision is in the hands of the Maine Legislature and governor.
Call legislators and tell them to say yes. It makes sense to accept federal health-care dollars in Maine. For more information, visit www.covermainenow.org
Nursing home care
According to a recently released MaineCare benefits manual, beginning March 25, DHHS is changing services for MaineCare’s nursing home residents. Residents will be allowed only four days of hospital care per fiscal year, and they will be discharged from their nursing homes unless they pay to keep their places. In other words, the state will not hold their beds.
This is discriminatory because it targets one group but does not affect other MaineCare recipients who receive specialized health care. Sick MaineCare babies are not limited to four days in a neonatal intensive care unit; cardiac patients are not limited; MaineCare recipients in subsidized housing won’t lose their homes if they are hospitalized for more than four days.
Yet nursing home residents who require hospitalization face limited hospital care or losing their places in facilities they are familiar with, losing the caregivers who know them best and fellow residents who are like family. Married couples could be separated as a result of one losing his or her nursing home bed due to hospitalization.
Hospitals will certainly be impacted. These patients will still need nursing home care, so discharge planning will have to find placement, perhaps in another part of the state, far from residents’ loved ones, if that is the only place with an available bed.
This is not a change for improved health care and is not in the best interest of anyone, least of all our elderly and our severely disabled in nursing home care.