While I would not necessarily us the word generous, we do have some benefit programs that could have greater accountability and beneficiary participation requirements much like the federal minimum work requirements which were implemented for SNAP benefits. Where we are seeing a grave shortfall is in reimbursements for home health services and programming for our citizens with severe and persistent cognitive and physical disabilities. Programming for these individual sis vital to keep them functioning at their maximum level; many can live independently with appropriate services. Unfortunately, many have been delegated to wait lists waiting for funding in order to receive services. While there is much talked about regarding TANF and SNAP benefits, we cannot continue to leave our elderly, disabled and children at the bottom of the funding list. They need to be a core priority.
Depending on where the sales tax is broadened it is something that I could consider. I cannot support expanding sales tax on groceries and services that would adversely effect our citizens who live on a fixed income so any expansion would have to be carefully considered with these folks in mind. I do support lowering the income tax. Maine is bordered by New Hampshire which has no sales tax and no income tax. We are already experiencing the flight of capital and wealth out of Maine for more than 6 months a year. Making Maine more affordable for our wealthier part-time residents can only serve to help the citizens who are here year round.
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The imposed tax will go directly to the general fund and there is no guarantee that this extra money will actually reach the classroom any more than the 55% school funding has ever been fulfilled. Also, this would add another tax bracket at 10.15% making us the second highest taxed state in the nation; second to California. Most of Maine small business owners file as individuals. With both this initiative and the increase in the minimum wage initiative, Maines small business owners are looking at getting hit with a double whammy.
I am adamantly opposed to this initiative. It serves no purpose since we are one of the safest states in the nation with one of the highest levels of firearm ownership. Ive discussed this with several people and unfortunately most are not aware of the details, (which is where the devil tends to dwell in language like this) They dont understand that they can no longer have their neighbor stop by and drop off that rifle they have borrowed for a week of hunting like they have in years passed. This legislation has the very real potential to create a scenario where law abiding individuals unknowingly break the law putting their right to own a firearm in jeopardy for the rest of their life.
Minimum wage is being confused with a living wage. It was never meant to be a living wage, merely and entry level wage. Imagine how many of our youth looking to find a summer job to help pay for college will now not be able to find one. While we hear a lot about losing the tip credit which will surely have an impact on the food service industry in Maine, one area no one is talking about is our healthcare industry. A majority of funding for healthcare services are in the form of public dollar reimbursements. Last session we were able to come up with an extra $4 million dollars for home health services. HHS agencies are struggling to attract and retain trainable or skilled workers to help Maine citizens in their homes. If the minimum wage is increased, the ripple effect across the entire healthcare industry when reimbursements do not keep up with the wage demands could be catastrophic.
Maines Attorney general Janet Mills has put out a 6 page letter weighing in on the issue and agree there are significant constitutional challenges. On top of that, while this is being sold as a measure to reach a majority in Maines elections, nowhere in the language is the word majority. That means after all the convoluted calculations and exhausted ballots are taken into consideration, you could still end up election our officials with less than a majority of the total ballots cast. A good example of that is the Portland Mayors race in 2011. With a total of 19,728 ballots cast in the election, the winner, after 14 rounds of counting won with 9,061 votes. Almost 3500 ballots were not counted in the total vote count because they were considered exhausted.
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I would like to see them run for office. Currently, the majority party in the legislature has the advantage in electing our constitutional officers and while we've certainly had some very capable individuals fill the role, the legislature often has no idea what these individuals bring for qualifications to the table prior to the vote. IF they were required to run for office and be elected by the citizens of the state, we would have an opportunity to learn more of their accomplishments and qualifications (or lack thereof) prior to them holding these very important offices.
I would not be in favor of increasing the legislative pay. We are a representative republic and it's the legislators job to serve the citizens of their district and this state to the best of their abilities. While the current reimbursement structure is very low considering the time investment you have to commit to, I think we need to remember why we are there. Is it to earn a living or is it to serve our state? I subscribe to serving our state. As for the size of the legislature there are two schools of thought. Some say we should reduce the size and quite frankly, in my tenure I've had the opportunity to meet other legislators from across the country who have much larger districts than we do and are able to do an admirable job serving their constituents. Others however, feel that they would suffer a loss of representation at the state level by not having as much access to their legislator.
Neither side is wrong and reducing the size is a topic that I would be more than willing to have come up for a debate and see how the people of Maine feel about it.
There is a fine line we walk with sanctions and our right to freedom of speech. Also, the perception of someones remarks can be highly subjective, depending on where you stand on a particular issue. I would not support sanctioning just based on language I didn't care for. I may find something terribly offensive yet, it is within the rights of the person who spoke to say what they feel. Disciplinary actions should be reserved for the most egregious cases and then only when a very high threshold has been met. We already have a mechanism in place to address these issues.
I have always supported the possibility of more casino's in Maine. The market will allow Maine to bear what it can in regard to the total number.
Energy costs on our large industrial employers has had a huge impact. Pulling everything into the mix and rearranging our renewable portfolio to reflect our geographic challenges and embrace more of what we have available like hydro could potentially provide some relief for Maine businesses. Also, continued development of skilled laborer education such as constriction, electricians, welders is key to filling many of the higher paying jobs that are available now that we do not the skilled manpower to fill. When these two items are taken into account along with continuing to lower income and corporate taxes in Maine it's a winning formula to not only keep the large employers we have already established but perhaps even attract new industry to Maine.
Maine's demographics are changing because we've not had a vital and booming economy with family sustaining jobs to keep our kids at home. Our college graduates have been migrating out of state and taking their talents where there is more opportunity. Change that demographic, create opportunity for native Mainers and more will stay here close to family and friends. While there is certainly a place for immigrants in our workforce, hanging our hat on them to increase our population and reverse the trend in our aging demographics is extremely short sighted; especially in light of how long it takes for these people to get through the federal system and receive the proper documents to enter the work force.
Maine's infrastructure; roads, bridges and communications systems are core components of drawing companies and keeping companies here in our state. The transportation budget used to be a much larger percentage of the total state budget but it has been squeezed out by other services, in particular education and the Department of Health and Human services. Without a robust rail system, goods and services are heavily reliant on over the road transport. It's vital that investments are made into our transportation structures as well as investment in communications.