The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has, once again, messed over Maine’s horticulture industry and the public.

Since 1999, there have been numerous opportunities to include horticulture production in the statutory definition of agriculture. Each time a bill has been presented to the Legislature, both houses have overwhelmingly supported the measure, as the status quo results in multilayer sales taxes being paid by an industry that then collects sales tax when selling the final product.

Each time the bill has reached the Appropriations Committee, the committee has rejected doing the fair thing.

Every manufacturer in Maine is protected from such double taxation. Every farmer growing crops in Maine is exempt from such double taxation. Gov. LePage’s supplemental budget contained such a corrective measure for horticulture. Appropriations has hidden its head in the sand and voted to remove the measure from the budget.

This action results in every consumer of Maine-grown nursery stock paying multiple levels of sales taxes included in the cost of the product. Further, this action ensures that it is less expensive for retailers to purchase products from out of state than Maine-grown nursery stock.

The irresponsible choice made by Appropriations fails to support Maine growers and opens the door for myriads of damaging insects and diseases to arrive on imported plants. As these damaging conditions grow, so does the state’s investment in controlling them. This is not a responsible trade-off.

Maine’s horticulture industry is being treated extremely unfairly by Maine statutes.

Maine’s farmers cannot diversify into horticulture production without losing their tax exemptions. Maine consumers are being made to foot the bill for a ravenous Legislature mistakenly choosing immediate money over unfair practice.

Maine’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry is spending thousands of dollars controlling damaging conditions that should never be brought into Maine.

Something smells in Augusta, but it isn’t the manure on the fields.

Jeffrey O’Donal

owner, O’Donal’s Nursery Gorham

Outsourcing custodian jobs would hurt workers, public

Having been employed by the Scarborough School Department for 28 years, the last 12 as a custodial supervisor being responsible for six schools and 33 custodians, I know that all these men and women are very hardworking individuals who take great pride in their work. All custodians are thoroughly trained in all aspects of cleaning by attending seminars and hands-on workshops at their schools.

Their responsibilities include the setup and breakdown of many events that take place nightly or on weekends. School security is also a responsibility of all custodians on a daily basis.

Some of these custodians have families and have resided in Scarborough their entire lives as taxpayers.

After having listed all these qualities and jobs completed by these custodians, I hope you can understand why I was very upset when I read an article in a town newspaper stating that the administrators are looking into contractual cleaning to reduce the budget.

I really feel this could take away the special one-on-one relationship employees have with teachers who know all these custodians by name, not to mention the special rapport with students, the staff and the public, unlike contractual cleaning hires, who generally tend to come and go.

I would hope that administrators would take a long, hard look at this proposal before making a final decision.

I realize that a quality education is important for all students, but so is a clean and safe environment for everyone.

Wayne McDermott

Cape Elizabeth

Right-to-work legislation aimed at weakening unions

I would like to address the issue of L.D. 309, the right-to-work legislation that some lawmakers in Augusta want to pass.

I’m a member of a local teachers union, which is very important to me and my working environment. Without our union, teachers would be in a constant battle for fair pay, decent health care benefits and job security in an already downsized state economy.

Even with a strong union to represent our teachers and staff, these issues are often at the forefront. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have fair wages and benefits if our union were not always ready to back us.

Due to the union security clause, a union must represent all workers in a bargaining unit fairly and equally regardless of whether they decided to join the union upon employment; this is called an “agency shop.” A “fair share” fee is withdrawn from nonunionized employees in order to cover collective bargaining and representation by the union.

However, a right-to-work law allows workers to pay nothing and still receive all the advantages of a contract. Such a law should not apply to every union in Maine. The name “right-to-work” is very misleading since it does not guarantee any work and will hurt wages and benefits.

L.D. 309 would undermine unions and the right to collective bargaining by workers and employers, and it would weaken job security and job satisfaction. Without effective and strong union contracts, workers’ rights would be in peril by unscrupulous business owners who only care about profit and growth.

If every staff member were part of their local union, this would be a more powerful force to ensure better representation. It was only in recent years that a teacher’s beginning salary finally reached a more competitive level of about $30,000; however, it still takes many years to reach higher levels.

If L.D. 309 passes, how will we attract top talent to our education sector? How would this affect our students’ overall education?

Let’s not allow right-to-work legislation that will permeate every union in Maine and undermine workers’ rights to fair and beneficial contracts.

Leah Zuch

Portland