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Monday, May 21, 2012: East-west highway, social security and state budget

East-west highway good or bad

Repair of our crumbling roads is delayed due to lack of funding. Yet, our government is spending $300,000 from the Maine Department of Transportation’s Highway Maintenance Fund to study whether or not to build a $2 billion private toll road running across the northern half of the state.

This private road will run within a corridor 2,000 feet wide (almost seven times wider than the I-95 corridor) with few access or crossing points. Its corridor will host pipelines carrying gas and tar sands oil from western Canada to tankers, and probably an LNG facility, on the coast.

Opponents say Mainers will see very few good jobs or businesses result and that most benefits will go to large corporations. Proponents claim the corridor will allow Maine manufacturers to ship their goods more efficiently, and so bring businesses here.

The cost of this corridor to Mainers will be in the form of air, noise, land, and water pollution, loss of property (53,000 acres) to eminent domain, and a partitioning of our half of the state by a half-mile wide swath of fenced-off private property. Some in state government support business at any cost to Maine’s traditional way of life. Before deciding whether this thing is good or bad, please cogitate on what opponents have to say as well.

Bob Lodato


Social insecurity

On May 14, the Bangor Daily News reprinted an Editorial from the The Messenger of Fort Dodge, Iowa ( “Social Security Action Needed”) noting that Social Security trustees recently reported that the program can pay full benefits until 2033. The Messenger opined that the longer Congress waits to act, the harder the problem will be to solve.

AARP agrees. It’s past time for Washington politicians to listen to their constituents about Social Security. The Trustees’ report is a call to action. The longer Washington waits to address the challenges ahead for Social Security, the more difficult it becomes for workers trying to plan their futures.

That’s why AARP has launched You’ve Earned a Say, a national conversation focused on strengthening health and retirement security so today’s seniors and future generations receive the benefits they have earned. Over the next year AARP is hosting local town halls, debates and informational forums throughout Maine and across the nation.

Social Security is particularly vital to Maine residents. One-quarter of recipients in our state rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income, while 55 percent rely on it for at least half their income.

Mainers can visit www.earnedasay.org and make their voices heard about the importance of Social Security and Medicare. Don’t let Washington decide the future of Social Security without hearing from you.

Carol Kontos

AARP Maine State President


East-west path

Until Peter Vigue began his statewide campaign for a proposed east-west highway, eminent domain was not something I spent time thinking about.

Who would have thought that I and other residents of small towns such as Dover, Monson and Sangerville would need to be concerned about such a thing? However, no one is immune from facing the possibility of property seizure.

This appears to be happening more and more in the United States.

According to a CBS news article from 2009, The Institute for Justice said there were 10,000 instances in the U.S. in the previous five years.

What recourse do innocent citizens of Maine who stand to lose their property have? At what point will Mr. Vigue realize “No means no”? These are questions I would like to see answered. How could a 2,000-foot, four-lane highway and utility corridor not have a negative effect on the environment and quality of life in the area?

The more we allow this type of exploitation, the more we pave the way in the future for other cases of eminent domain. That power has been abused by government and other special interest groups for too long. We should all be fearful of the path to the east-west highway. It’s a road leading nowhere.

Brita Holmbom Cronkite


Democrats’ plan: Punt on budget

My Democratic colleagues in the Legislature have devised a plan to close a $78 million budget gap in the Department of Health and Human Services budget — a budget that has grown out of control largely due to previous Democratic administrations.

Their plan: Get someone else to fix it.

After Republican leadership introduced a rational plan last week to finally address the problems that have led to annual DHHS shortfalls, the Democrats want to form a task force to study the problems. Instead of tackling them now, they want to punt the problems and shortfall to the next Legislature.

The MaineCare Restructuring Task Force, which now comprises the Democrats’ plan, would be made up of state bureaucrats, business representatives and others. Many represent special interest groups that lobby legislators with the primary goal of securing more money for their organizations.

Now it’s time for the elected officials to do our job. The Appropriations Committee began work on the DHHS shortfall back in December. Yet, the Democrats waited until the eleventh hour to present their plan, which amounts to doing nothing at all to fix the ongoing budget shortfalls within DHHS.

The number of Mainers receiving taxpayer-funded health care is 35 percent above the national average. The current system is unaffordable.

Republicans have proposed a budget that will address the overspending, while preserving the safety net for those most in need. There were difficult choices, but Maine voters did not send us to Augusta to form task forces and leave problems for another day.

Rep. Tyler Clark


LePage’s budget

I am saddened by the legislative vote to pass Gov. LePage’s budget bill.

The pain that will be caused by the reduction or elimination of programs will not be felt by either Gov. LePage or the legislators who passed the bill, but it will be real and damaging.

The fact that we are, at the same time, giving tax cuts, with the largest ones going to the wealthiest people, makes me feel ashamed of what our state has become. I applaud all the Democrats who fought to maintain our values of standing up for fairness and support of working families, education and strong communities. Thank you for your hard work.

Carolyn Bower



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