October 1, 2013

Letters to the editor: Mortgage interest a flawed deduction

In these days of ever-expanding inequities between the top 1 or 2 percent and the rest of us, one of the best ways to make sure the economy works well for everyone is to make sure that tax breaks and incentives benefit the people who need them most.

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Schedule A

As Congress considers reforming the tax code in the coming months, it seems that the mortgage interest deduction is the sort of tax break that needs adjusting to reflect the needs of the current economy.

In 2014, it will cost the U.S. treasury at least $70 billion to provide this mortgage deduction to homeowners, a deduction that only 24 percent of taxpayers claim and that disproportionately benefits the wealthy.

Currently, mortgages of $1 million or more are eligible for the deduction. Reducing that threshold to $500,000 would save significant money at the federal level, money that could then be spent on ending homelessness. In Maine, fewer than 1 percent of home mortgages are valued at greater than $500,000.

Practically, we need only take a step back from the politics of this issue to consider the common sense inherent in reforming the mortgage interest deduction, a program that economist after economist labels as ineffective in encouraging homeownership.

Do our nation’s needs dictate more tax breaks for those at the highest income levels or a commitment to affordable homes for those struggling to survive? I hope Maine’s congressional delegation speaks out on this important issue.

John Bernard

South Portland

Waterfront ordinance a bad deal for S. Portland

I am a Maine native, a 35-year South Portland resident and have worked in the maritime industry for more than 40 years. I am writing this letter to express my concerns about the Waterfront Protection Ordinance that will be voted on by South Portland residents in November.

Maine citizens cannot withstand any preventable increase in energy or transportation costs, especially during these volatile economic times. I have worked on the Portland waterfront for many years, and as a business owner and concerned citizen, I know that predictable energy and transportation costs help our local economy and help Maine families prepare for our long cold winters.

I have worked at all of the South Portland waterfront oil terminals, and I can say that they have the strictest environmental and safety practices of all industries in the area.

These businesses represent more than 60 percent of the commercial tonnage moving through the Port of Portland and are reliable economic contributors to the Maine economy, and I have often heard many agencies characterize the oil terminals’ safety record as “outstanding,” including the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

I think that the interests of the economy and the environment must be considered in all decisions. I am all for alternative fuel sources and encourage everyone to conserve energy, but South Portland voters should not vote in favor of the job-killing Waterfront Protection Ordinance because it is bad for Maine, the economy and the environment.

Please read and understand the proposed ordinance thoroughly before casting your vote.

If this ordinance passes, South Portland’s oil terminals will close. This means all of our fuels will be trucked from away, meaning we all pay more, while sending several of our neighbors out on the streets looking for employment elsewhere.

Capt. Bill Van Voorhis

South Portland 

Disaster an opportunity for Pan Am Railways?

During the past year, freight train traffic increased on the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway because of the crude oil trains that operated between the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and the Irving oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.

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