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Friday, April 24, 2015: Student hunger, sales tax disaster, minimum wage, clean elections

Hunger problems

Student hunger is a major problem in Maine that often goes unnoticed. Nearly half of all students in Maine are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. While the National School Lunch Program is highly utilized, there are other federal meal programs available that can benefit qualified Maine students.

Studies have shown students with adequate nutrition have overall better attendance, fewer behavioral problems and improved academic achievement. There is up to $30 million per year of additional federal funding available for student meals in Maine.

To increase participation in these meal programs, Maine has established the Task Force to End Student Hunger. Led by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, this task force has proposed legislation that makes several recommendations to eliminate student hunger in Maine. This legislation, LD 933, establishes a Commission to End Student Hunger. This commission would implement a plan to increase participation in the National Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program. This legislation also would direct a group to review best practices related to the community eligibility provision, which provides free lunch to all students in eligible schools.

Residents should review the proposed legislation and express their opinions to their legislators. Adequate nutrition is essential to the growth and development of future generations in Maine.

The final report can be accessed at maine.gov/legis/opla/studenthunger.htm.

Allison Sherman


Leading to disaster

If we let Gov. Paul LePage and ALEC con us into eliminating the income tax and increasing sales taxes, we can expect increased poverty, decreased homeownership, diminished educational quality, fewer jobs, higher welfare costs, increased drug use and increased outward migration of the able and the young.

Only states with a large populations of well-off residents can base state revenue on a sales tax without doing significant damage to the economy of the state. Sparsely populated states with many of limited means cannot survive, let alone progress, on sales tax alone.

That LePage claims this will cut middle class taxes and increase the trickle of wealth downward is cynicism at its most virulent. Eliminating the income tax and increasing the sales tax is a conscious, deliberate, well-documented and well-understood economic mechanism for transferring money out of the hands of average citizens into those of the very wealthy. Falling prey to this ALEC policy will lead to disaster for Maine and Mainers.

Janet Alexander

Old Town

Minimum worry

If it wasn’t so sad, I would have to laugh at Gov. Paul LePage’s statement that a higher hourly wage would hurt the elderly. It seems a few cents on a cup of coffee would hurt less than a 1 percentage point increase in the sales tax. Also, most seniors in Maine make less than $11,700 annually and therefore do not pay income tax. They are not going to save under LePage’s no state income tax plan. Money for the state coffers has to come from somewhere, and that will mean an increase in property tax, which a lot of elderly do pay. Do you really think LePage worries about the state’s older residents?

Diane Collar


Wage hike

Those who want to require an increase in the minimum wage should keep at least four things in mind.

First, if wages go up, prices will go up. Employers can’t afford to pay out more without taking more in. Fast food places no longer would have a “Dollar Menu,” as items soon could go up to at least $1.50, which everyone will have to pay.

Second, places with higher wages will be less competitive. If Bangor requires higher wages, for example, a business would be foolish not to move to Brewer or Hermon if it can. And the higher wages in this country generally have meant millions of jobs lost to China, Korea and other foreign countries.

Third, good workers don’t work for minimum wage very long. If a worker is good, a raise will come or the worker goes where the pay is better. If a worker is just barely worth the current minimum, he or she would be laid off when the employer has to pay more.

Fourth, raising the minimum wage will accelerate the race to automate jobs and eliminate workers. Remember when someone served your drink in a fast food place? Now in most places we serve our own and the server’s job is gone.

Lawrence E. Merrill


Clean initiative

This November, there will be a referendum on the ballot to restore the Maine Clean Elections system. I am voting for it. The Clean Elections Initiative strengthens our democracy by making our politicians more accountable to the average people they represent and lessens the influence of outside political action committees.

Last November, I saw many ads and flyers from PACs I never heard of, and reading the small print didn’t help me know who was paying for them. The Maine Clean Elections Initiative would require the top three donors to these organizations be named in the ads.

The Clean Elections Initiative also would make our representatives more accountable to the voters. Did you know the Maine governor-elect can take money from any person, lobbyist or corporation for “inaugural and transition expenses” and not disclose these funds? That seems like a bad idea when all those appointments governors make easily could be influenced by contributions. The Clean Elections Initiative would require public disclosure of these contributions and how that money is spent.

The initiative also strengthens our present laws by increasing penalties for those who violate campaign finance law, so breaking the law is never seen as “the cost of doing business.”

Republican President Teddy Roosevelt once said “the government is us; we are the government, you and I.”

Regardless of one’s party or one’s politics, it is clear to me that if one doesn’t fight to lessen the influence of money and increase transparency in our elections, we are risking the great American ideal of government of the people, by the people, for the people. I am taking a step to increase transparency and will vote for the Maine Clean Elections Initiative. I encourage everyone to find out more at mainecleanelections.org.

Martha Conway-Cole


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