Sunday, December 8, 2013
The North Woods is a natural gift that has endowed our state with a remarkable recreational advantage. It is fast being pulled apart by random projects.
Iconic Mount Kineo in the middle of Moosehead Lake. A reader fears development’s effect on the Great North Woods and Moosehead.
2007 File Photo
The grand plan for the preservation of Moosehead Lake and the Great North Woods wilderness area should have had the long-range comprehensive planning it deserves.
The true ownership and destiny of this remarkable, one-of-a-kind ecological system have always been with everyone, not just those who somehow have boycotted opinions and actions that would threaten their status quo.
The present embedded political and business voices that supposedly speak for the well-being of this resource area speak instead for the failed economic concepts of the past. The future of the North Woods region, if left to those who see only the monetary gain out of it, will be bleak.
A few good spokespeople see the economic/recreational value in its becoming a national park, but most others have been either mute or extreme in their negativity to the idea.
The immediate profiteering of this unique state resource is under way at a rapid pace. The disgraceful image of waves of wind turbines perched on mountaintops, the current talk of carving an international roadway through this area, the risk of a toxic oil sands pipeline out of Canada and finally the Plum Creek development along the shoreline of Moosehead Lake show the disregard development planners have for what we cherish.
This is a disastrous prescription for using the last remaining great lake-wilderness system remaining in the entire nation. Shame on those who could have stopped this and didn't. It is sad that there is such a lack of courage to do the right thing among the political and business leaders of Maine.
A few bills will raise taxes on Maine's middle class
In case you've been busy working, caring for your kids or elderly parents, you may not be aware that the Legislature voted to increase the cost of vehicle registration by 50 to 60 percent.
I thought the Democrats were on the side of the little guy. Fortunately, Gov. LePage vetoed this bill, and the Legislature ultimately agreed with his decision by sustaining the veto.
Here is a small sampling of upcoming potential middle-class tax hikes you may not be aware of. If the Legislature spread these tax-increasing bills out over the next few years, it wouldn't be so obvious that we are nothing more than milk cows to them.
• L.D. 1124, "An Act To Provide Income Tax Relief," puts taxpayers on a scale that would change based not on their income, but on their income relative to other taxpayers. As more people earn less money, your taxes could go up, even if your income stayed the same.
• L.D. 1141, "An Act To Increase the Sales Tax To Support Revenue Sharing," increases the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. I'm old enough to remember when the jump to 5 percent was intended to be temporary.
• L.D. 1227, "An Act To Promote Tourism and Economic Development," would raise the sales tax on hotel rooms from 7 percent to 12 percent. Our staycations will cost more now.
• L.D. 1402, "An Act To Amend the Taxes Imposed on Alcohol and Lodging," raises the sales tax on liquor and lodging from 7 percent to 9 percent. Why do I have to pay nearly 10 percent sales tax for a bottle of wine?
Where are the bills to curb spending or live within our means? Please turn off "American Idol" and pay attention to what's happening in Augusta. Everything they do has lasting effects on each of us.
Collins' bill to ease airline delays aided Maine tourism
I am writing this letter to bring to light the role that Sen. Susan Collins had in making the 2013 Maine tourism season just that much better.
I happened to be at the American Hotel & Lodging Association Legislative Action Summit in Washington, D.C., as a representative of the Maine Innkeepers Association, where Sen. Collins was the featured speaker.
She announced that she would be introducing legislation that day to alleviate the ongoing issue of disrupted air travel due to the FAA furlough of air traffic controllers. Two days later, her proposal passed the Senate.
We are very lucky to have such a responsive senator and one who can work across party lines for the good of the country and our state.
All three flights I was on to and from D.C. were delayed or disrupted by at least an hour due to the situation -- hardly the stuff a relaxing vacation to Maine is made of.
Now, hopefully, vacationers to Maine can enjoy their trip to Maine, as well as their stay with us.
Hospital debt repayments must be linked to MaineCare
The debate about whether to link repaying hospital debt to accepting federal funds to cover the uninsured is hard to understand. Unless the two are tied together, we've only solved half the debt problem.
When those below poverty level get sick or injured, they will still need care. Maine's hospitals have a long tradition of providing care to all, whether or not they can pay their bills.
But when hospitals care for the uninsured, they incur debt. That's why the proposal to link hospital debt repayment to the expansion of MaineCare makes sense.
There's no dispute that the final installment on the debt created by an outmoded MaineCare payment system must be paid.
But unless Maine accepts the federal funds to cover low-income people, their care will continue to go unpaid. That creates a new debt to Maine's hospitals.
Some say we don't need to accept federal funds because people who are below poverty can buy coverage once the new health insurance marketplaces -- or exchanges -- are in place.
People below poverty level have annual incomes under $11,500, yet are ineligible for subsidies to buy health insurance on the exchange. Only people with incomes between $11,500 and $45,960 per person qualify for health insurance discounts.
That's because the Affordable Care Act, as passed, assumed everybody below poverty would qualify for Medicaid (called MaineCare here).
But the Supreme Court ruled that it's up to states to decide whether or not to accept federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs. As a result, unless a state does so, the poorest of the poor remain uninsured and their care creates debt to Maine hospitals.
By linking federal payments for the uninsured with the hospital debt repayment, the proposal ends the current debt and prevents a future one.