Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Mainers have long understood the value of homeownership to our communities and families. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, 73 percent of Maine households own their home, the fourth highest homeownership rate in the country.
Curtailing the mortgage interest deduction, as called for in a recent op-ed piece, would drive up Maine homeowners’ taxes, says the head of a state Realtors association.
The Associated Press
This means that changes to the tax code that negatively affect homeowners will have a disproportionate impact on Maine families.
A recent op-ed ("Maine Voices: Mortgage deduction ready for reform," July 28) suggested that curtailing the mortgage interest deduction might be a solution for ending homelessness and making homeownership more affordable.
Maine's 4,000 Realtors know firsthand the importance of homeownership tax incentives to a young couple shopping for their first home, or seniors on fixed incomes paying down a mortgage.
For the average Maine homeowner, eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would mean a nearly $2,100 tax increase each year. Sixty-three percent of Maine homeowners with a mortgage claim the deduction each year.
Homeownership is a ladder to the middle class, and home equity is often the biggest component of our net worth. National Association of Realtors research shows that eliminating the deduction could result in a 21 percent decrease in Maine home prices, or $21,700 for the typical home.
Preserving housing tax incentives is also a matter of fairness. Hardworking families purchased homes with the expectation that these vital tax provisions would remain in place. It would be unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game.
Making homeownership more affordable is a goal that Maine Realtors share. Yet, we disagree that a tax increase on Maine homeowners is the appropriate solution.
After several challenging years, the housing market in Maine is showing signs of recovery. Changing the homeownership tax incentives that have been in place for more than a century could jeopardize the fragile economic recovery we're beginning to experience.
president, Maine Association of Realtors
Organ donations help people 'start their lives over again'
In last Sunday's Maine Voices ("A chance to live is the greatest gift," Aug. 4), a subject was brought forth that really needs to be addressed more often to the American public.
There is a great need for more organ donations, be there a live donor or a relative who unfortunately is deceased -- but, with their organ donations, could live on in someone else.
I am a mother with four children, three of whom inherited from their father polycystic kidney disease. Through no fault of their own, they have lost the function of their kidneys to the cysts that grown on them.
Two of the youngest children have already been on "the list" of those waiting for an organ donation -- one for five years, and the other for 2½ years. This means they were on dialysis three times a week for that length of time but have now been fortunate to have received a kidney. My oldest son is on dialysis, waiting on the same list, and it could be five or more years.
As a mother, I live with them through this time watching the physical and mental breakdown as they wait. (I personally can't donate one of my kidneys as I have had cancer and could pass it on with my kidney.)
If you read the Maine Voices column Aug. 4, you would see how many people are waiting on these lists to start their lives over again. The kidney list, I'm sure, is the longest.
The occasion of somebody's death is a traumatic time for relatives to decide about donations, so please make it known early on that you would like to live on, helping someone to get back to living their life again.
Backers of hospital closure fail to recognize key facts
Thank you for bringing attention to the plight of the Boothbay peninsula's health care ("Boothbay region 'full of fear' as hospital closing looms," July 28). Several issues deserve more attention.
• MaineHealth/Lincoln County Healthcare failed its responsibility to try to preserve care locally. It did not explore staffing options common to critical access hospitals, including use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners, rather than just ER physicians, nor did it seriously explore telemedicine.
• Mark Fourre's argument that St. Andrews' emergency room is inadequate to handle emergencies, yet an ambulance crew, driving on windy back roads, is adequate, is absurd. LCHC CEO James Donovan's saying such care is equivalent to "four-wheeled intensive care units" is delusional.
Many tiny critical access hospitals provide excellent care and are financially viable. St. Andrews' staffing is comparable to or better than other critical access hospitals.
• If MaineHealth/LCHC is successful in stealing Boothbay's valuable critical access hospital designation, transferring it to Miles Memorial Hospital, it will require downsizing hospital beds to just 25 for the entire region of 55,000.
This will reduce the number of beds in Lincoln County from 1.36 beds/1,000 (permanent residents) -- vs. 2.7 overall in Maine -- to about 0.45 in the tourist season, on par with Pakistan (0.6) and Afghanistan (0.4). This decision is more irrational as Lincoln County has the oldest population in Maine and surprisingly high health care needs.
• By stealing the critical access hospital designation and closing St. Andrews, MaineHealth will seriously hurt Boothbay's economy, both directly by job losses and by the increase in taxes of $400,000 annually to pay for the ambulance service, and by an 8 percent (estimated) drop in real estate values.
MaineHealth CEO William Caron's stating that closing St. Andrews will result in the county having "the best care in the state of Maine when we're done" doesn't reflect highly on his system's management. Instead, it seems bullying and like corporate hubris and greed.
Judy Stone, M.D.
Aircraft engine contract big opportunity for Maine
A high-tech opportunity that brings great jobs to Maine, creates export potential and makes us a serious contributor to our nation's defense is steadily gathering steam.
Maine's own Pratt & Whitney was recently awarded a $1 billion deal to manufacture 35 engines for the F-35 Lightning II advanced fighter aircraft. This is the fifth such contract, and a sixth is expected to be finalized soon that will be of similar magnitude.
Pratt & Whitney's North Berwick plant is a major player in this production effort. Current estimates cite an economic impact to Maine of $69.5 million and 845 direct and indirect jobs due to contracted F-35 Lightning II work out of the North Berwick facility. Planned production calls for 3,054 fighters to be built.
With stealth capability, the F-35 Lightning II is a single-engine fighter designed to undertake the multiple roles of ground attack, reconnaissance and air defense.
This is a huge opportunity for Maine to advance our country's security on a scale comparable to our work for the Navy in Bath and Kittery. Furthermore, we must appreciate the value of this assignment in developing our workforce skills, experience and capabilities in areas that will attract other employers to our state and help build our economy. We must continue to do all we can here in Maine to ensure that our state education and training initiatives are responsive to this emerging demand for workers.
We are fortunate to have a hardworking and respected congressional delegation -- particularly Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree, who serve on key committees -- that appreciates the supporting role Maine is performing in the production of the F-35 Lightning II, and how this effort could yield much greater economic and workforce development benefits as we move to full production levels.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is constantly seeking opportunities to build our economy in ways that strengthen our workforce capabilities while securing high-quality jobs with good pay and benefits. We also seek ways to expand Maine exports of manufactured products. The F-35 Lightning II delivers on all of these aspirations.
The Chamber is committed to working with all who are in a position to expand this opportunity for Maine.
president, Maine State Chamber of Commerce