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Thursday, August 8, 2013: Bipartisanship, Medicare and wind power

Labels at the door

Given that we had worked side by side on legislation for the good of Maine people this session, I was shocked to see House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, in a recent OpEd disavow what lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had accomplished together. We put more money in classrooms, restored funding to vital safety net programs and prevented a massive property tax hike. We passed bills to close the skills gap as well as sweeping energy legislation to cut costs and increase efficiencies.

But now, he is toeing the line of Gov. Paul LePage. It seems that he has conveniently forgotten that the governor nearly sank these critical initiatives and that they came to fruition only because Republicans joined Democrats in standing up to him.

Fredette’s hometown is a great example of this work. Because of our bipartisan budget, his school budget will cost Newport taxpayers less.

It’s true that we weren’t always able to find common ground. At times, Republicans chose to back the governor over the people of Maine. This was most evident in their refusal to accept federal health dollars that would expand coverage to tens of thousands of Mainers, including 2,700 veterans.

The governor’s obstructionism has held our economy hostage. Throwing around labels like “liberal” and “conservative” to appeal to the governor’s shrinking group of supporters doesn’t change the good work of lawmakers this session. Maine people sent us — Democrats, Republicans and independents — to Augusta to work together. Let’s leave the labels at the door.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, Assistant House Majority Leader


An important birthday

This week, we celebrate the 48th anniversary of Medicare. For most seniors, it’s hard to picture life without it. Before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, affordable private coverage was virtually nonexistent for Americans 65 and older. Personally, I would have likely died without my Medicare coverage and the extraordinary cardiac rehab program it enabled.

Now, workers pay into Medicare throughout their working lives so that Americans age 65 and over, as well as people living with disabilities can get health coverage. Today, more than 37 million people nationwide and more than 270,000 Mainers rely on Medicare, and these numbers will continue to grow.

Medicare faces a number of challenges due to demographic changes and overall rising health care costs. Yet some in Washington believe the way to address these long-term challenges is to either cut benefits or force seniors to pay more.

AARP believes we need responsible solutions to ensure Medicare’s solvency and to do the least harm to those who depend on the program. One solution is to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Unlike private insurance plans, Medicare is prohibited from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug costs. This is just one of the many system reforms that could save the Medicare program hundreds of billions of dollars.

As we celebrate Medicare’s birthday, let’s look for ways to work together to improve Medicare without hurting seniors. Visit, share ideas and tell our representatives what you think.

Rich Livingston, AARP Maine volunteer state president


The answer is no

In April 2012, the Land Use Regulation Commission rejected First Wind’s proposal to build turbines on Bowers Mountain in Carroll Plantation. Officials felt the wind turbines’ effect on mountain and lake views, and businesses that profit from them, would be too great. First Wind then attempted to submit a revised proposal to LURC. It, too, was rejected.

On Aug. 5, after more extensive Department of Environmental Protection review, and more public hearings, DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho signed the final denial decision document on another “revised” Bowers Mountain Wind Project. DEP concluded again that “the proposed activity would have an unreasonable adverse effect on the scenic character and existing uses related to scenic character of the resource.”

First Wind says they’re “disappointed and haven’t decided whether to appeal.” Really? This must be what Yogi Berra meant when he said “It’s deja vu all over again.”

The arrogance of First Wind is incredible. Yes, there are two sides to the issue. But the review of the Bowers Mountain Project has undergone two years of the democratic process, repeated public testimony and extensive reviews by Maine government agencies. And the answer is: No. Denied. Rejected. Does First Wind need an interpreter?

First Wind is not used to losing. It is obvious that unless it suits their agenda, they have no respect for the state agencies that represent us. It’s time for them to learn that their deep pockets and legion of lawyers can’t steamroll the people of Maine.

The state of Maine should not waste another taxpayer dollar on any more appeals or stall tactics by First Wind. It’s over. Let’s not beat this dead horse any more.

Jack Gagnon


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