Friday, December 6, 2013
By REP. EMILY CAIN
AUGUSTA - House Speaker Robert Nutting wrote in a Maine Voices column Thursday that Democrats would like to undo the "progress" made in Augusta during the past two years.
Surprisingly, several of the policies the speaker ticked off in his list were ones Republicans and Democrats worked on together, like streamlining regulations for small businesses, increasing funding to Maine schools, pension reforms, and preventing corruption at the Maine Turnpike Authority.
In fact, we even worked together to toughen MaineCare standards for those with a history of drug use and those not following the law.
Make no mistake, Democrats want to make changes to the policies rushed through by Republicans in the Legislature that make it harder to live and work in Maine.
These include health care rate hikes, tax cuts for the very rich, health care cuts for seniors, people with disabilities and working families and attacks on working people.
These laws pushed through by Republicans don't help our economy or the middle class. They do help big insurance companies, private corporations from away, and the very rich.
Maine Democrats believe families should be climbing into the middle class, not falling out of it. We have a vision for rebuilding Maine's economy and growing opportunities for Maine people, not shrinking them.
New data released from the U.S. Census Bureau just this week indicate that Maine's income growth is stagnant and the middle class is shrinking.
Maine was among only a handful of states where the economy actually slid backwards last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Plus, we lost thousands of jobs and have more than 50,000 people looking for work.
The Republican majority promised to help create jobs and strengthen the economy. But their attacks on workers, health care rollbacks, tax cuts for the rich and giveaways to big health insurance companies have failed.
Republicans pushed hard for huge tax cuts for the rich. Sure, if you are a middle class Maine family, you can expect to get back under $100, but if you are among the top 10 percent, you can expect to get back more than $3,000. That's not the right kind of progress for working families in Maine.
This tax cut will shift costs to local towns, schools, and property taxpayers and is paid for on the backs of Maine seniors, working families and people with disabilities.
If your local property taxes are going up, you may be beginning to feel the impact already.
Democrats went along with the tax cuts as part of a budget negotiation, but we pushed harder for more relief for middle class families. We were the first to propose that the cuts for the rich be suspended when it became clear that the state could not afford them.
Republican lawmakers also forced through insurance reform that is having devastating consequences for Maine people, especially for middle-aged Mainers and those in rural Maine.
Democrats opposed the law because it allows insurance companies to charge significantly higher rates based on where you live, on your age, or on what kind of job you have.
If you are a 55 year-old without health insurance, a new policy can cost you 500 percent more than a 26 year old. That doesn't sound like progress to me.
A new independent report from the consumer advocacy group Consumers for Affordable Health Care showed that more than 90 percent of Mainers between the ages of 55-59 saw increases, and everyone over 60 saw a jump in their rates.
In fact, for every one business that saw a decrease in rates, there are nine whose rates increased since the law took effect.
At the same time, the law allows insurance companies to hike rates without requiring public review and accountability and puts a tax on every Maine family with insurance, whether you go to the doctor or not.
This year insurance companies have hiked rates -- with no prior approval -- to increase their profits by millions of dollars. That sounds like progress for the bottom line at insurance companies, but not for Maine people trying to make ends meet for their families.
The policies of the Republican majority in Augusta have made it harder to live and work in Maine during the past two years. They have forced through partisan policies that are out of step with Maine people, and have contributed to a divisive culture that prevents collaboration and real problem solving.
Democrats don't think those are measures of progress. Maine people deserve better.
Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, is the Democratic leader in the Maine House of Representatives.