Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Due to the easing of enrollment, MaineCare grew from 180,000 to 339,000 enrollees since 2001. As a result, Gov. Baldacci left a $500 million hospital debt that dates back to 2009, a debt the state of Maine agreed to pay but has not.
A reader says that Democrats in Augusta should support a proposal by Gov. LePage to use funds from the liquor distribution contract to reimburse Maine hospitals for providing care to MaineCare recipients.
2012 File Photo/The Associated Press
LePage and the 125th Legislature changed this to a pay-as-you-go system, so, moving forward, hospitals would be paid. LePage also managed to pay the hospital bills through 2008. Nonetheless, a $500 million hospital debt still lingers, and it's costing Maine people their jobs.
According to the Maine Hospital Association, since this debt began, "Access to health care is being jeopardized."
Services have been eliminated, wages were frozen, benefits have been cut and more than 300 employees have been laid off, with the most recent layoffs occurring at Franklin Memorial Hospital.
LePage realizes this past debt is hindering Maine's economic growth and has proposed to pay this debt by obligating $200 million from the liquor distribution contract, which would trigger a $298 million federal match. Failure to act will result in more job losses and will compromise our health care, along with a decreased federal match, which means the bill increases and the problem worsens.
The problem lies with the misplaced priorities of the Democratic leadership. Hundreds of hearings have taken place, including a hearing on L.D. 226, "An Act To Establish a Renewable Energy License Plate," but no hearings on the hospital debt.
Maine can do better, and it starts with a responsible government that pays its bills, not one that balances its checkbook off the backs of hospital employees and those in need of health care services.
I encourage the Democrats to reconsider and to support LePage's proposal to pay the hospital debt before more good people lose their jobs.
Nestle contract a gamble on future of water supply
The Fryeburg Water Co. and Nestle, owner of the Poland Spring Bottling Co., have proposed an agreement to extract large amounts of groundwater from Fryeburg over the next 45 years. No municipal water supplier in the U.S. is known to have such a long-term contract.
We are concerned that a private corporation will profit from what should always remain public: the groundwater under our feet.
There is no way to determine if future climate and rainfall can support large-scale commercial water extraction without jeopardizing local supplies. Should shortages aggravated by Nestle's own extracting occur, the Fryeburg Water Co.-Nestle proposal forces local businesses as well as Nestle to halt their water use.
Nestle can easily extract water from its many worldwide operations. But where would local businesses and towns that surround Fryeburg and depend on the same underground sources go for water?
Over the period of time it has partnered with Nestle, the Fryeburg Water Co. reports it has gone deeply into debt. It's reasonable to wonder if this small company can hold its own in developing an agreement extending 45 years with a multibillion-dollar corporation.
We are discovering for ourselves that when large-scale commercial extraction of drinking water competes with the public's need for reliable, high-quality supplies, the drive for profit wins out.
That is why we must ensure that water resources remain public. Under privatization, we lose control of our most essential resource.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission, in response to our concerns, is holding a public hearing March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Fryeburg Legion Hall, 47 Bradley St.
Please support the efforts of Community Water Justice to defeat this proposed agreement. For more information and directions, email email@example.com.
On behalf of Community Water Justice of Fryeburg,
Federal spending, not cuts, will help U.S. move forward
With another manufactured fiscal crisis -- the sequester -- having begun March 1, reviewing some history related to government spending and debt levels seems in order.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the figure that really matters -- our current ratio of debt to gross domestic product (our debt in relation to the country's entire economic output) -- is in the mid-70 percent range. In comparison, Canada's is 87 percent and Germany's is around 80 percent. (ProPublica, Dec. 28, "How Bad is Our Debt Problem, Anyway?")
After World War II, our debt-to-GDP ratio was well over 100 percent, yet we had the courage to continue to make investments in our future through, for instance, the GI Bill and the interstate highway system. Without that same kind of courage to invest in our future now through badly needed infrastructure improvements, education and training of our work force, etc., we are sentencing the country to decades of slow growth.
Slow economic growth itself has been the principal driver of our escalating debt (see above ProPublica reference), not President Obama's "socialist" agenda. Like it or not, when no other sector is creating jobs, the government has to.
The debt and deficit frenzy sweeping the country is clouding vision. We need sound fiscal policy to ensure a robust economic future, but we can't stop investing in America. Europe's experience should be teaching us that austerity measures are not a viable path forward.
Mary Ann Larson
Pot legalization proposal raises legitimate concerns
The legalization of pot ("Maine lawmaker pushes to legalize small amounts of marijuana," Feb. 21) raises several questions.
Who will be responsible for the health problems of the users in 20 years? (Think tobacco companies.)
How will regulating it control who grows it? (It's illegal now, but that hasn't stopped it. Do you really believe making it legal and taxing it will stop backyard growers? Ever heard of moonshine?)
Just making it legal doesn't mean the problems go away. Then there is the whole drug testing thing some industries are required by federal law to perform -- trucking leaps to mind, airline pilots, etc.
These are just a few of the questions that need to be considered.