April 20, 2013

Letters to the editor: Want prosperity? Back tourism

This is the time of year when Maine's small businesses begin to receive a welcome boost from the influx of summer tourists visiting the many natural wonders the state has to offer.

click image to enlarge

Keeping people like this coming is what drives so much in Maine.

2011 staff file photo

Unfortunately, the seasonal economic uptick that many business owners count on may be offset by increased energy costs if President Obama has his way.

We need to protect our energy companies by supporting policies that advocate for lower-cost production, and correlating lower prices for consumers.

The president's budget includes several measures that will increase the cost of production for the nation's energy producers -- costs that will be realized in home heating bills, shipping and transportation costs for Maine businesses and at the pump.

For each dollar that tourists spend in Maine each summer, there is a seven-fold multiplier for the local economy.

The days of paper production supporting this state are long gone. We must support growth in the tourism industry and the services sector generally to ensure people here in Maine continue to have access to good-paying jobs.

This summer, increased energy costs will diminish the flow of tourists into our restaurants, shops and hotels as families decide to stay home to avoid inflated travel costs.

Just as these tourism dollars provide a positive multiplier in the economy, higher energy costs provide a negative multiplier including heating and cooling costs for hotels, cooking fuel for restaurants, etc. These all generate residual effects in the larger economy.

Please call our representatives in Washington and ask them to vote "no" on President Obama's budget to save the Maine economy.

The sequester has already resulted in a month delay in the opening of Acadia National Park. Maine's tourism industry cannot sustain another blow to the bottom line this season.

Matt Leino

Portland

Let feds help to pay Maine's health care costs 

In the Legislature's hearing regarding MaineCare and the Affordable Care Act and whether Maine qualifies for additional federal funding, two key points were missing.

First, Maine is eligible for increased federal funding for childless adults. In 2009, during the ACA debate, states that were "early expanders" of Medicaid raised funding concerns. Working with Congress, we secured a special provision in the law.

Maine will receive more federal funding (81 percent vs. the current 62 percent) to cover childless adults in 2014. That amount increases each year until it reaches 90 percent, just like other states receive, in 2020 and beyond.

There is full federal funding for those now on the waiting list, and another pathway in the law may qualify us for full funding for adults already on the program.

As early expanders, we knew we'd see savings through the ACA. Some of those now served by Medicaid could instead become eligible for private insurance premium tax credits offered through the new insurance exchanges and paid for by the federal government, not the state. Those savings have been cited by liberal and conservative sources.

By law, no state will receive higher funding for parents already covered. Why? All states already covered some parents (the median is 66 percent of the federal poverty level) and 18 states, including Maine, covered parents above 100 percent of the poverty level.

For decades, other states' taxpayers have subsidized Maine as we drew down millions of dollars to cover low-income citizens whose care would have been uncompensated. Those costs to Maine's health care providers would have been passed on and paid by all insurance premium payers.

In making more people eligible for Medicaid over the past two decades, Maine has secured significant federal funding -- dollars that other states did not receive.

Trish Riley

Brunswick

There's just no reason for women to go backward

To some female legislators of the Maine House and Senate: How could you be a "right-to-work" supporter when the only place in the work force that a woman gets equal pay for equal work is in a union shop in this country and state?

Right-to-work = backward. Ladies, unions have been there for you since the beginning of unions. Time to be there for the unions. We as a people can't get to a place that, no matter who you are, you are treated equally. Even in the United States, women are treated as less valuable, except when they are in a union. Come on, ladies.

Paul Paquette

Brunswick

Objections to oil from tar sands based on evidence

Those in opposition to tar sands oil have received harsh criticism as of late.

State Sen. Roland Collins recently wrote ("Oil sands should be part of energy mix," April 7) that "the people of Maine deserve a fact-based debate on the real issues rather than scare tactics that consistently ignore findings from credible sources."

In response, I would like to remind the public that tar sands oil is by no means safe for our state and in fact, poses a very serious threat.

Unfortunately, both Michigan and Arkansas have served as our fact-checkers for the tar sands debate.

Given that families were still being forced to evacuate their homes almost two weeks after the Arkansas spill, I feel that it is both insensitive and illogical to suggest that there is any redeeming incentive for the transportation of tar sands.

In addition to being a nightmare for Arkansas residents, the spill gives us glimpse of the very real consequences we should anticipate should tar sands transport be allowed through our state.

Similar to the project contemplated for Maine, the Arkansas pipeline was very old and repurposed to accommodate Canadian tar sands oil.

Regardless of the state-of-the-art equipment used to incrementally inspect the pipe, it inevitably burst.

We need to learn from the disasters in Mayflower, Ark., and Michigan's Kalamazoo River and not repeat the same process and hope for different results.

For the sake of our health, public safety and the environment, U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins should demand that President Obama and the State Department require a thorough environmental review of any project that would carry tar sands anywhere near Sebago Lake and Casco Bay.

Maine has nothing to gain and everything to lose with the reversal of the Portland-to-Montreal pipeline.

Madeline Ray

Portland

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