‘His own party agonizes as Gov. LePage burns political capital,” the June 21 headline said.

Well, there’s agony, and then there’s agony.

Sometimes it comes when a small group of legislators wants to spend more money than the chief executive likes, even when they share the same political party.

And sometimes it appears when a substantial number of voters finds that lawmakers they elected to rein in spending, end welfare abuse and straighten out a tax system with a higher top rate than “Taxachusetts” fell far short of helping the people who actually pay the state’s bills.

Massachusetts’ income tax rate just dropped from 5.2 percent to 5.15 percent, under a law mandating an eventual decline to 5 percent once certain economic criteria are met.

Meanwhile, the biennial budget that passed in Augusta, if it survives a potential veto, sets three income tax rates for Mainers.

People at the lowest level, from $0 to $5,200, now pay no tax. In 2016, a 5.8 percent rate would apply from the first dollar up to $21,400.

From $21,400 to $50,000, a 6.75 percent rate will apply, rising to 7.15 above that. While the top rate did decline from the current 7.95 percent, deductions are phased out between $70,000 and $140,000 for single filers.

Despite some income tax reductions, sales taxes grew, and Maine has a budget that 1) spends $300 million more than the previous one; 2) has most taxpayers still paying over 6 percent of their incomes; and 3) phases out deductions in order to keep on penalizing (and thus driving away) the state’s top job creators (aka “the rich”).

Couple that with the utter failure of Democrats to support Republican efforts to reform a badly broken welfare system, and add in their refusal to allow people to vote on a constitutional amendment to eliminate the income tax, and you have a nearly perfect disregard for Maine’s invisible man (and woman), the people who actually work and pay taxes.

Then there’s the bill that would guarantee that, for up to two years, non-citizens who are seeking asylum under federal immigration laws couldn’t be denied state-funded General Assistance benefits on the basis of their immigration status.

As of this writing, L.D. 369 does not have enough support to override an expected veto. Still, as Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew noted in a recent statement, she was “appalled” that lawmakers would provide “at least $6 million in welfare benefits to non-citizens just days after they voted to leave hundreds of severely disabled Mainers on waitlists for Medicaid services.”

Who are these non-citizens? While those in favor of keeping them on the dole call them “asylum seekers,” most of them came here under either tourist or work visas.

As Mayhew’s statement noted, “More than half of all asylum applications are denied. Furthermore, asylum applications are increasingly being made on a ‘defensive’ basis, meaning they are only submitted after deportation hearings have been initiated.”

In a recent telephone interview, Mayhew told me that her department had proposed $106 million in savings to free more money for aid over the coming biennium, but only $10 million had been adopted.

And she described having to tell elderly Mainers trying to get long-term help for their 50-year-old disabled child that they had to remain on the waiting list for an extended period of time because of lack of funding.

To deny help to Mainers because no funds are available, while millions are offered to non-citizens of questionable legal status, is “truly heartbreaking and shows a shocking lack of compassion,” Mayhew said.

Still, you can be shocked only if you expected better. A lot of Mainers are learning not to.


In an Another View guest editorial June 16, a reader said I was wrong for saying that states that don’t require permits to carry concealed weapons are safe places to live, and said I “owed readers an explanation” for my view.

So, here it is: He and I were discussing two different things. I was noting the vital importance of being able to defend oneself from criminals carrying guns, and he was including suicide rates in his figures.

No matter what you think of how people commit self-murder, other citizens usually remain unharmed.

When you list states (and the District of Columbia) by actual murders per 100,000 residents committed with firearms, the ranking (as of 2010) is Washington, D.C., Louisiana, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia.

None of those states is on the list of the ones with permitless concealed-carry laws.

However, note that South Carolina is represented here. But banning every Confederate flag in existence won’t do anything to prevent future Dylann Roofs from launching their own horrific crime sprees.

Though making it easier for potential victims to defend themselves just might.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]