April 10, 2011

Letters to the editor, April 10, 2011
Quimby park gift controversial

So, Roxanne Quimby wants to give more than 70,000 wild acres to the federal government, hoping to create a Maine Woods National Park ("Another national park in Maine?" March 28). What a wonderful gift!

CHESUNCOOK LAKE
click image to enlarge

Environmental philanthropist Roxanne Quimby has proposed donating 70,000 acres of forest to serve as the beginning of a new national park in the Maine woods.

The Associated Press

Now nobody will be receiving any real estate taxes on that property. She, of course, will take a huge write-off on her own income tax so the government will lose all that income tax money.

There will have to be a visitor's center to build and staff, etc., etc. But it is a wonderful gift!

Who will really benefit from this? Roxanne Quimby.

Kay Havener
Friendship  

Many thanks to Roxanne Quimby for her vision and generosity with wanting to donate 70,000 acres to create the Maine Woods National Park.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that the full amount of land for the proposed national park would be 3.2 million acres, leaving 3.1 million acres left to be protected after Roxanne's contribution.

This area is part of the 10 million-acre heart of Maine's great North Woods. The Maine Woods National Park deserves the entire 3.2 million acres, so let us allow Roxanne Quimby and Percival Baxter to be an inspiration to all of us to do what we can to promote and support the creation of this park.

Baxter gave his gift of land to the people of Maine. Let us all work together to do our part to give a national park to all species, human and wild.

In a state that boasts 21 million acres, we can afford to protect 3.2 million.

Lee Ann Szelog
Whitefield 

Cutting state pensions is unfair to retirees 

When my wife and I first started in state service we were told that you may not make as much as you would in the private sector, but you can count on basic health insurance and retirement.

This was particularly important because unlike most private workplaces, state employees have no Social Security.

They do not contribute to Social Security while in the service of the state nor do they receive a Social Security benefit for that time when they retire.

What's crucial to understand is that for state employees their pension is their Social Security. It is not on top of Social Security, but instead of it.

We are even penalized for any Social Security that we might have earned in the private sector previous to our state employment by federal law, which drastically reduces any such Social Security benefit. This is commonly known as the Social Security offset.

The governor's proposal to cut $524 million from the retirement of public employees is gigantic. Contrast this figure with the fact that the total that we have given up since 2003 in cuts to our pay and benefits is $149.6 million. Asking employees to give another $524 million is unfair, and places nearly all the burden for balancing the budget on public employees.

The backdrop against which all this occurs is a drastically increasing rise in the real cost of living. Gasoline and oil prices are skyrocketing. City councils and school boards are proposing increases in the regressive property taxes. Food prices are on an upward binge.

The net effect of the severe constraints on cost of living increases contained in Gov. LePage's proposed budget would be compounded over time, drastically decreasing the real value of retirement benefits.

Frank and Kathy Kadi
Retired state employees
Portland
 

Gov. LePage wants to pay for the state pension fund shortfall, ostensibly a shared moral obligation, entirely with increased deductions from the paychecks of public employees.

In the interest of fairness, I propose that if this increase is approved, the state Legislature should at the same time require that all prospective and current public employees be presented with the following Truth in Hiring Statement. The figures reflect current federal tax law and LePage's budget proposals.

1) As a Maine state employee or teacher, you will neither pay for nor receive credit toward Social Security benefits. You will instead pay into a state pension fund at 230 percent of the Social Security tax rate.

2) Only one in five public employees in Maine ever collects a full Maine pension. In the unlikely event that you actually do collect your pension, you will be penalized with the loss of up to 55 percent of whatever Social Security benefits you paid for while working for any other employer. If you do not collect the pension, the state will pocket its share of the money that was contributed toward that pension.

3) The recent bill extending the Bush-era tax cuts reduced the federal taxes of most Mainers. However, because you are outside the Social Security system, your annual federal tax bills were increased by between $400 and $800 per family.

4) Have a nice day.

L. Paul Gilden
Blue Hill 

Public unions should not prosper at state's expense 

Our form of government is of the people, by the people and for the people. It is not of the unions, for the unions and by the unions.

Many of those protesting over the proposed state budgets in Maine, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere claim the governors are breaking promises of times past.

Promises, I might point out, that were made by politicians of times past, by politicians who did not provide funds for the benefits allegedly promised.

It should also be pointed out that a claim of a collective bargaining right for public service employees does not trump either a state constitution or the U.S. Constitution. Public service employees work for the people and the people voted out those politicians who made promises to the public service unions that the people couldn't afford.

It's unfortunate that public service employees were misled by the irresponsible politicians of yesterday.

Today is a new day. New politicians were elected who promised fiscal discipline. They need to have the opportunity to do the job without protesters yelling -- and in some cases physically threatening them -- as was the case recently in Wisconsin.

Many years ago I was a union member and for many years I continued to be a union supporter. But with the union bosses being unwilling to accept the will of the people, my support is waning and I suspect others feel the same.

To the protesters in Maine, your party lost. Let Gov. LePage do the job he was elected to do. If he fails, let the people be the judge in the next election. Thank you.

David Alexander
Augusta 

Mainers are doing their part in Japanese relief 

A recent article about Maine natives Marine Lt. Col Damien Marsh and Cheverus graduate Lt. Joseph McConnell delivering relief supplies only serves to exemplify just how wide and how deep Maine's connection to Japan's tragedy really runs. ("Marines fly supplies in Japan relief effort," March 27).

Among the many others with family, friends or acquaintances involved or affected is another Cheverus graduate doing his part. Navy Cmdr. Chris Monroe of Gray and Whitefield is commanding officer of the BIW-built USS Curtis Wilbur DDG 54.

The Wilbur is on a dual mission, splitting its time between search, rescue and recovery off the devastated Northeast coast, and acting as plane guard for carrier operations. A plane guard stands ready for rapid response should Lt. Col Marsh or any of his fellow relief choppers experience flight difficulties.

Just the other day a gentleman and former BIW employee was in my wife's office. He was part of the BIW crew that constructed the Wilbur and he was responsible for the onboard decontamination systems. He wanted us to let Chris know the decontamination systems really do work, just in case they are needed.

James Monroe
Gray

 

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