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Maine News

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Maine News for Thursday, January 31, 2008

Senate race nears spending record
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The two candidates in Maine's U.S. Senate race moved closer to the state's campaign spending record, raising a combined total of close to $7.5 million through the end of December.

Narrowing of field excites GOP in Maine
Election 2008: State Republicans will caucus this weekend as their party's presidential race tightens.

Crowd criticizes I-295 widening
Most who attended a Portland meeting also want more invested in public transportation.

Natural resource merger plan opposed
Several lawmakers, a lobstermen's group and dozens of others express their concerns.

State officials warn of cuts in funds for health care
Changes in federal Medicaid rules will affect the elderly, children and people with mental illness.

Cribbage players: State oversight not necessary
They tell a legislative committee that they play a game of skill, not of chance.

Portland school committee maps out goals
Members hope to achieve three objectives in three years, including better finances and enrollment.

EDITORIAL: Ready or not, here comes a higher deficit
Congress and the president appear determined to spend money they don't have.

EDITORIAL: A Republican-only primary win bodes well for McCain
Support from the party's core and his appeal to independents will make him tough to beat.

MAINE VOICES: Between new trains or buses, tires win
Yes, roads are subsidized, but it would only take a modest expense to add more buses.

LTE: Is rebate in our best interest?

Federal cuts could cost Maine millions
AUGUSTA - Baldacci administration officials said Wednesday pending federal changes in Medicaid rules could cost the state of Maine $45 million through the next 16 months. They also said community losses, including for nonprofit health care providers and schools, could total $141 million over the same period.

Controversial cold lunch plan hard to swallow
MADAWASKA - A proposal that would have given an alternative meal of jelly sandwiches, milk and fruit to students in the Madawaska School Department whose lunch accounts are delinquent has inflamed the community.

Bangor: Records, transport businesses expanding to southern Maine
BANGOR, Maine - In Maine, business expansions traditionally run northward. A Bangor-based entrepreneur, however, is bucking that trend with an expansion south to Auburn.

Stimulus boost a possible bust for Maine
AUGUSTA - Mainers are not likely to get the full immediate benefit of the federal stimulus package passed by the U.S. House because of the cost to the state of going along with tax changes that are aimed at boosting business investments.

Collins, Snowe seek fuel funds
WASHINGTON - Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is helping lead the fight in the Senate to amend the economic stimulus package passed by the House on Tuesday to include up to $1.5 billion to help low-income people pay their home heating bills.

EDITORIAL: Republican Choices
When Maine Republicans begin caucusing Friday, they will have distinct choices to make. Many may argue that with the public, and the Republican Party, frustrated by the failures of the Bush administration, they should choose a candidate who stands in sharp contrast to President Bush. More important than their differences from or similarities to President Bush, are the candidates' alignment with the party's principles.

EDITORIAL: The Unkindest Cut
At a time when Congress is deciding how best to stimulate the sagging economy, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with cuts in Medicaid funding that will further strain state and local budgets and reduce services to children and people with chronic illness and disabilities.

Brenda M. Harvey: Adjustments necessary to sustain care system
Like states across the country, Maine is facing difficult budget times. Gov. John Baldacci has submitted his approach to addressing a $95 million revenue downturn to the Legislature. But just as the work on those plans has begun in earnest, the state's economic forecasters are warning of more bad news ahead.

LTE: Money for kids; Huckabee is consistent; Statesmen needed; Republicans are no help

State officials decry changes to Medicaid
AUGUSTA -- Baldacci administration officials said Wednesday pending federal changes in Medicaid rules could cost the state of Maine $45 million through the next 16 months.

Fuel prices retreat from upward trend
Central Maine residents this week were encouraged by a price drop in home heating fuel from as high as $3.43 a gallon last week, to being in the $3.20 range Wednesday.

EDITORIAL: Philosopher would smile at jail compromise
Long ago, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there lived a German philosopher by the name of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

COLUMN: Budget shortfall a serious challenge that means real cuts
The state budget is a complex series of documents and difficult choices. Only a handful of legislators really understand how it is put together and what all of it means.

COLUMN: Foster parent pay cuts not as worrisome as prevention service cuts
Like Chip Moors and his wife, I was a therapeutic foster parent when the cuts came to reimbursement for us. I am an adoptive parent now and the cuts to adoption subsidy affect me now.

COLUMN: 1st District Democratic candidates focusing on illogical issue Do they really believe Cheney impeachment Mainers' primary concern?
Take heart, everyone, we are about to enter a new phase of the election season, when we all get a rest from the round-the-clock demands on our attention by the presidential races.

LTE: 'Mainer' easy label, but 'people of Maine' classier

LTE: Home for profoundly retarded kids in danger
We are concerned about the recent news that the Elizabeth Levinson Center will be privatized by July 1.

LTE: It's time for Maine to recognize Independents
What happened to Maine? There is no registration card for Independents because we are told Maine doesn't have a third party. Is this democracy?

Randolph plans war memorial
RANDOLPH -- A committee has been formed to raise money to establish a new memorial to the community's war veterans, organizers said this week.

LTE: Ron Paul only candidate true to his beliefs
The media has tried their best to ignore him, ridicule him, or at times lie about him. In the debates, he's usually not given much time. When he is asked questions, many are nonissues and intend to make him look bad. The other Republican candidates laugh at him and/or ridicule him. They sling mud and he does not.

Baldacci plan draws additional opposition
AUGUSTA - Agricultural and forestry organizations joined groups of outdoorsmen Wednesday to register opposition to a still developing plan by Gov. John Baldacci to consolidate natural resource agencies in Maine.

Medicaid changes could spike costs for special education
LEWISTON - Pending Medicaid rule changes could result in higher property taxes to school districts with sizable special education student populations, Lewiston's director of special education said Wednesday.

LTE: Rumford realism
It's budget time in Rumford. Unfortunately, there is a potential for a rise in local property taxes if spending isn't reduced in the budget. The town faces economic decline, but large municipal expenditures are in the news (new library, new public safety building, new MedCare building, Region 9 building expansion, municipal building upgrades). Residents must acknowledge the economic facts to move forward as a vibrant society.

COLUMN: Rich bear heaviest burden of federal income tax
Should non-taxpayers get a tax rebate? That had been the revealing sticking point in the Washington debate over an economic stimulus package.

Watson pushing bill that would require boater safety training
AUGUSTA — A proposal to require mandatory boating safety classes for those who operate motorboats in Maine is being amended to address concerns that it could discourage young people from getting out on the water.

School consolidation foes miss petition deadline
AUGUSTA — The group collecting petition signatures to overturn the school consolidation law officially missed the deadline Monday to get the repeal question on the November ballot, but vowed it will keep up the effort.

Oil prices take toll on Wells' general assiatance program
WELLS — The winter's cold weather and soaring oil prices have combined to put the squeeze on many household budgets this year. As an extension of that, the Town of Wells is feeling the pinch on its general assistance budget and is looking to the community for help.

Governor issues statement on proposed changes to Medicaid rules and the impact on Maine
AUGUSTA — Gov. John E. Baldacci today released the following statement regarding proposed federal rule changes for Medicaid. The changes will reduce federal funding for significant programs for the elderly, persons with developmental disabilities, school-aged children and persons with mental illness.

LTE: Losing jobs in Camden
We hope it is just a coincidence that we have two front-page stories this week about businesses in Camden either moving, or looking to move, out of town.

LTE: We support the shield law
We would like to thank Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, for sponsoring the proposed journalist "shield law" that would protect journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources.

EDITORIAL: George Bush's Keynes Mutiny
When George W. Bush ran for the presidency in 2000, he promised to bring back the economic policies of Ronald Reagan. At multiple campaign stops, Bush said his administration would "reduce tax rates for everyone in every bracket." And in 2003 Congress passed a plan that lowered taxes, relief from the so-called "marriage penalty," and an increase in the child tax credit, among other initiatives.

LIHEAP Official Grilled by South Bristol Selectman
Midcoast Maine Community Action Program Executive Director Jessica Tyson hadn't expected to be on the hot seat before the South Bristol selectmen and budget committee on Thurs., Jan. 24, when she appeared to request $350 in municipal support.

State Growth Amendment Pits Coastal Legislators Against Service Center Reps
Proponents of an amendment that would leave it up to local voters to decide if they want to opt out of a new law, requiring big-box stores to do an economic impact study before they can get permission to build, hope the appeal of home rule will trump concerns about chain stories coming in and taking away business from the locals.

Two Clamming Bills Endorsed by Committee
Three bills sponsored by Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and Rep. David Webster, D-Freeport, and supported by the Maine Clammers Association (MCA) were discussed on Monday by the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee.

Commentary -- Downeaster: Stay the Course, or Cut and Run
An aggressive lobbying campaign has begun for Maine's Legislature to appropriate up to $8-million annually to replace an expiring federal subsidy for the Downeaster rail passenger service between Portland and Boston. The same elected officials are charged with overcoming a projected $95-million budget deficit, raising public passions pro and con.

Collins, Allen raise a combined $7.5 million for Senate race

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The two leading candidates in Maine's U.S. Senate race have raised a combined total of about $7.5 million, putting them on track to set a state record for campaign spending.

Allen, Michaud Favor Economic Stimulus Package
WASHINGTON -- Maine's two Democratic congressmen have voted in favor of a $146 billion economic stimulus package that passed Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

Medicaid Services Jeopardized Under Federal Rules Changes
Thousands of Maine children, disabled adults and entire communities will feel the sting of pending federal changes in Medicaid rules. The new rules could also expand a projected gap in the current state budget by another $45 million dollars. Commissioners of the Education and Health and Human Services departments met with reporters this morning to outline the effect of the changes on state programs and services. Congressional efforts are underway to postpone the federal action. But as AJ Higgins reports, in the absence of intervention, the outlook from the state capitol is bleak.

Advocates Worry About Effects of Medicaid Cuts On Kids
The federal Medicaid cuts will affect health care services for the elderly, people with developmental disabilities, people with mental illness, but especially children. Exactly how many is still unclear, but children's advocates say the breadth and depth of the new Medicaid rules will cause personal suffering and further erode Maine's economy. Susan Sharon reports.

State Task Force Wrestles With Wind Siting Process
Governor John Baldacci has made it a priority: dramatically increase the amount of renewable energy the state has to offer. Now a state task force has come up with a blueprint for reaching that goal by streamlining the wind siting process. But as Barbara Cariddi reports, even the group's members disagree on some core principles.

Sinking Rope: Scant Hope
BLUE HILL — Lobster fishermen from Stonington, Deer Isle, Brooklin and Cape Rosier met with U.S. Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) Saturday morning to ask for his help in dealing with new whale protection rules that go into effect in October.

Zapped Again
ELLSWORTH — Maine's increasing reliance upon natural gas and oil as fuels for generating electricity is driving up the cost of electricity, yet again.

Blueberry Season Yields Bumper Crop
ELLSWORTH — Maine's 2007 blueberry season yielded 3 percent more berries than the abundant 2006 harvest.

EDITORIAL: Economics 101
Republicans and Democrats in Washington were extolling the virtues of cooperation last week after coming to agreement on what they call a fiscal stimulus package designed to boost the slumping U.S. economy. "Remarkable" was the word used by some to describe the fast-paced negotiations and quickly achieved compromise.

EDITORIAL: Whacking Hospitals Again
All Maine citizens are sympathetic to the plight facing Governor John Baldacci and other authority figures in Augusta as they search for ways to address the state's budget shortfall. Everyone understands that, to a great extent, they are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. But the reality is that some of the proposals emanating from the Statehouse may result in more, rather than less, harm to Maine citizens. The $20-million cut in Medicaid reimbursement to hospital-based doctors, a component of the Governor's supplemental budget, is a case in point.

EDITORIAL: Preserve the Unions
Keeping local control, particularly at the elementary school level, has been the focus of much of the opposition to the current school district consolidation process in Maine.

COMMENTARY: It's Time to Demand Better Health Care
We hear a lot these days from the leading candidates for president concerning our heath care mess. Each has a panacea for making it all well again. However, all of their plans are still involved with the insurance companies. Only Dennis Kucinich opts for a single-payer plan, but he hasn't a chance of being elected because he hasn't managed to get enough of the big money backing from the big corporations (insurance?) (pharmaceuticals?) to be able to buy a presidency. I don't see how we can ever extricate ourselves from these odious twins, the monstrous big pharma and the criminally greedy insurance industry. Sad that not one of the leading candidates on either side of the aisle has had the guts to simply say "enough" and stand strong for a single-payer system like most of the rest of the civilized world enjoys.

COMMENTARY: State Must Step Up on Renewable Energy
Greetings from the tugboat Jean Turecamo, stationed in Narragansett Bay. My new assignment is shuttling one of the largest bulk barges on the East Coast back and forth between coal ships in the lower bay to the Brayton Point Dominion Energy Power Plant across from Fall River, Mass. The coal that fills our barge comes from everywhere but the U.S., as domestic coal is too expensive. Last night we had a hard time tying up to a ship because none of the Croatian crew could understand our line commands.

LTE: A Call for Common Sense
We are in the midst of an election year, a year that could be pivotal to the direction of this country and the world. The world environment is in crisis with global warming. The war in Iraq could possibly expand into Iran. There is the crisis in Darfur. The Palestine/Israeli ongoing tragedy continues. The economic situation in the United States. Gasoline prices and the record high prices of crude oil. The high cost of health care and the percentage of Americans without any real coverage. The cost of higher education (college) and the fact that fewer can afford it. The list is long and not encouraging.

LTE: A Wood-be Solution to High Heating Costs
Cut our heating bills in half, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs here in Maine, heat with renewable resources, reduce our carbon footprint.

LTE: We Need Paper Ballots in 2008
The New York Times has called for Congress to fund paper ballots before the 2008 election. If you want to sign a petition calling for paper ballots, go to Or, call our congressional delegation — Senators Olympia Snowe (800-432-1599) and Susan Collins (202-224-2523) and Representatives Tom Allen (202-225-6116) and Mike Michaud (202-225-6306).

Walk a Day in My Shoes: Tom Allen/Mishkin
On Monday, U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Tom Allen "walked a day in the shoes" of family child care provider Kay Mishkin in Maine. After an early morning preparing Mishkin's home for four babies and infants, Allen assisted Mishkin in caring for the children when they arrived—ensuring they were fed, took their naps, exercised, and other activities.

As Maine Goes: My Special Interest Wants to Raise ME's Alcohol Tax
Malory Shaughnessy: Maine needs higher alcohol taxes

Turn Maine Blue: About those other hearings: what Collins did investigate
This got me to thinking: what were some of these "dozens of hearings" that were held. And our government still being somewhat transparent (despite the efforts of Dick Cheney), I found myself at the website for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which has this handy page listing all of them.

Turn Maine Blue: Open Thread

Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, is putting up fried clams against a case of wine in a friendly Super Bowl wager with Rep. Tim Bishop, D-New York.

Collins Watch: Collins Q4: $963K
The junior senator raised slightly under $1 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to $813,000 for Rep. Allen.

MAINE NEWS: Tom Allen and Susan Collins FEC Reports (Through 9/30/07)

Heating aid sought
WASHINGTON — As Senate tax-writers rushed to expand the scope of anti-recessionary tax cuts, Sen. Jack Reed proposed yesterday to speed another jolt of spending into the economy — $3.62 billion worth of emergency aid for home heating oil and other energy needs of poor people.

$146 Billion Stimulus Plan Passes House
"I understand [McConnell's] point that we don't want to somehow derail the package, but on the other hand, some of the changes the Finance Committee is looking at would make the House package better," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).