In the 1962 film adaptation of the musical production “The Music Man,” the leading character, one “Professor Harold Hill,” a consummate con-man, presented the townspeople of River City, Iowa with the tantalizing prospect of solving all their perceived local problems by forming band groups. Of course, he would be the one selling them all the uniforms and instruments as well as teaching them how to use them. And, of course, he planned to skip town, leaving them to learn it all themselves … if they could.

Playing off distress over local problems, a new pool table in town and juvenile delinquent pranks, he managed to bamboozle the town into believing he had the solution: learn to perform in a band! He offered distractions with pie-in-the sky promises of solutions to complex problems.

Listening to radio ads recently blathering on about supporting Question 2 on November 7th to expand Mainecare/Medicaid in Maine, yet again, and the even more syrupy ads for Yes on Question 1 to allow a casino “resort” to be built in Southern Maine by one specific “entity” reminded me of the smarmy hucksterism of The Music Man.

Maine voters would have to wade through 29 pages of the PDF to read the mind numbing verbiage that these referendum questions require as legal backing. I could hear Professor Harold Hill, “Oh, you got trouble in River City … and I’m gonna show you how to fix it!”

The ballot questions, as worded, don’t give anyone the clear picture of what is behind these “citizen initiatives,” or the huge amounts of money funneled from outside Maine to bamboozle people into voting “Yes” on any of them. Of course the proponents are claiming the moral high-ground monikers of things like “Progress- ForMaine” (casinos as progress?), or “Mainers for HealthCare,” which always make it sound like if you vote No you are against … well, anything good. No, you just have common sense.

It is appalling knowing what is happening in other states after Medicaid was expanded and remembering what happened when Maine did this before. The enormous bill comes due sooner rather than later.

The fiscal impact statement for Question #2 says, “…this initiative is anticipated to require net annual appropriations from the general fund of $54,495,000. Federal costs would be around $525,000,000 annually.” Do you think that Maine’s share of $54.5 million dollars coming out of your pockets won’t be noticed? Do you think that there won’t be any skyrocketing of “anticipated costs”? Do you think that the Federal share (annually!) of $525 million for Maine is “free money,” and will be honored as promised? Do previous unmet promises of 55 percent education support give you any pause?

Maine cannot afford this piein the-sky expansion of Medicaid. For those convinced that “single-payer” state-run plans are the end goal, take a look at Vermont’s experience that led to a near fiscal collapse if the program had not been shut down.

Question 1, the casino carve out issue, is almost beyond belief. I have rarely seen a ballot measure designed so specifically to advantage only one entity/person. The legalese is crafted in such a way as to effectively apply to only one applicant! The Christmas-tree of payoffs to all and sundry vested interests within state agencies and offshoots is breathtaking. Naturally, the factor of what happens in many other states when you cut the gambling pie into smaller pieces within a larger region is studiously ignored.

The following paragraphs are from the state’s PDF.

“The legislation does not describe or define the location of such a facility, but it does define the entity that is eligible to apply for such a license. The eligible applicant is the entity that in 2003 owned at least 51% of the entity that was licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County and conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002. Bangor Historic Track fits the latter part of this description, and Capital Seven LLC is the company that owned 51 percent or more of Bangor Historic Track in 2003. Capital Seven LLC, which is a limited liability company formed in Nevada and owned by Shawn Scott, is thus the only entity eligible to apply for a slot machine or casino license in York County under this initiative.

“The initiated bill would raise the cap on the number of slot machines allowed to be registered in Maine from 3,000 to 4,500. The slot machine or casino operator would be required to collect and turn over to the Treasurer of State 1 percent of the gross income from slot machines to pay for administrative expenses of the Gambling Control Board. In addition, a total of 39 percent of the net income from slot machines would be collected and distributed by the Board in specified percentages for the particular programs and entities listed in the legislation.…

:The above listed allocations would leave the licensed operator of the casino or slot machine facility able to retain 84 percent of the net income from table games and 41 percent of the net income from slot machine operations.”

The Music Man, yet again, says that this will give Maine millions of dollars, for free, to fund all these wonderful things and solve all kinds of problems, and create “great jobs”. Do you hear that train’s whistle yet, Professor Hill? Your next stop is coming up. Oh, and if the casino doesn’t do so well, too bad, you are stuck with it.

But then, you could have voted NO on Nov. 7h and driven Professor Hill out of town before the con.

Another View is written on a rotating basis by a member of a group of Midcoast citizens that meet to discuss issues they think are of public interest.

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