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Archive for October 2012

School union loses stranglehold on health insurance

Court upholds law to break school union’s “virtual monopoly” on health insurance

The Maine Education Association’s longtime monopoly on health insurance for Maine public school employees has been broken, opening the door for school districts to seek lower-cost health insurance plans—and reduce local property taxes.

According to the most recent data, the Maine Education Association Benefits Trust paid Anthem an annual premium of $370 million and kept $87 million in a reserve fund, plus paid Anthem $900,000 a year to administer the plan. The MEA Benefits Trust has maintained a stranglehold on health insurance costs by refusing to share insurance data with school districts so they can shop for their own, lower-cost insurance.

To remedy this, the legislature enacted L.D. 1326, “An Act To Allow School Administrative Units To Seek Less Expensive Health Insurance Alternatives,” which requires that health insurers must disclose to school districts their insurance claims history, called the “aggregate loss information.” The loss information could then be provided to health-insurance companies in an attempt to compare plans and costs—a commonly used practice in Maine.

Since health insurance for school workers costs up to 15% of total education expenses, spending less on health insurance plans will mean direct savings to taxpayers.

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MaineHousing spent $7 million on two computer consultants

Investigations continue into fiscal mismanagement, lack of oversight

While the furor over inappropriate spending at the Maine State Housing Authority has faded, one large expense still stands out: $7.1 million has been paid over eight years to just two consultants for MaineHousing’s computer systems—and the systems are still not done.

The MaineHousing Board of Commissioners has authorized a forensic audit to determine if the $7.1 million was a legitimate expense.

With the media frenzy around the resignation of former MaineHousing executive director Dale McCormick and revelations in about inappropriate spending on travel, parties and a failed one-million-dollar “carbon credit” scheme, the MaineHousing board didn’t have time to look into all of the financial issues that came up.

But the hefty expense for computer systems leaped out at the commissioners, even before they became embroiled in the controversy over McCormick’s management of MaineHousing.

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LETTER: Rep. Craven seeks meetings with mayor

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to Mayor Macdonald.

Dear Mayor,

I write in response to your column last week, “Lewiston needs legislators who represent tax payers.” I cannot recall a single meeting where you asked us for a list of programs—or any other question, for that matter.

It was surprising to read that I had a “political” motivation in suggesting that we meet weekly. In that first meeting on August 15, the only time the word was uttered was when you said, “No more politics. I will focus my column on the work Chief Bussiere is doing to eliminate fraud downtown.”

We each have deeply held principles, which sometimes conflict. There is no reason that that should prevent us from working together. We serve the same citizens and taxpayers, and we do that more effectively when we work together.

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Enough is Enough: On November 6, will you choose fantasy or reality?

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

Last Saturday many from our area displayed, by their unselfish actions, the true definition of community. Hundreds showed up at Lewiston’s Green Ladle Restaurant to support little Noah Blakey and his family in his courageous battle against cancer. Noah, you’re in our thoughts and prayers.

With 13 days to go before the upcoming election, you—the voting property taxpayers—have a decision to make. Do you want to continue the steady growth of privately owned businesses that create jobs and a tax base? Or should we continue to turn Lewiston into the largest soup kitchen and homeless shelter in the state?

The choice is yours on November 6.

I saw a sign posted in a field along Sabattus Street that stated Democrats are for jobs and education. The sign carries a great message until you ask yourself, “Who’s not for jobs and education?”The answer is no one.

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LETTER: Democrats use old tax data to wage class-warfare

To the Editor:

Desperate to take back the Maine Legislature, the Democrats have decided the best argument is to make you believe the changes in Augusta this past year would hurt Maine’s poorest and only help the wealthy.

A parade of liberal-spending legislators has gone on radio, in multiple newspapers and the Internet to tell you Maine’s lowest-income earners pay more than 17% of their income in Maine taxes each year, while the wealthiest only pay 10%. Our citizens deserve to fully understand the argument, to have all the facts presented and to then decide for themselves who is telling the truth.

Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham (with echoes from Craven, Rotundo, Bryant and others) seems to be the flag bearer for the argument. When I questioned the numbers, he arrogantly suggested I check with Dr. Michael Allen of the Maine Revenue Service. Unfortunately for him, I did so.

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LETTER: Endorsements from a grass roots activist

To the Editor:

Over the last couple of years, I’ve canvassed the Lewiston-Auburn area several times to promote change. It’s really all I can do to help my community because I don’t have money. I’m a man of average means.

But as hard as it is to go door to door, it is rewarding. I’ve had a chance meet so many wonderful people from all walks of life.  And I’ve found that the vast majority of folks share the same concerns and values.  The citizens of the Twin Cities are sick and tired of the tax-and-spend, welfare mentality that has crippled us.

This year we have a great group of candidates running to change how Augusta operates. If elected, we the people will finally have legislators that will work to expand liberty and promote limited government.

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Dempsey Challenge breaks registration, fundraising records

Patrick Dempsey (Photo by Zachary Roy of St. Dom’s)

The fourth annual Dempsey Challenge presented by Amgen attracted 4,294 participants from 33 states and six countries, breaking the previous record of 4,177 set in 2010. The two-day event in Lewiston raised over $1.1 million to benefit the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, which provides free support, education and integrative medicine services to anyone impacted by cancer.

The event featured the Electricity Maine 5K and 10K run/walk on Oct. 13 and Exergy Development Group cycling rides of 100, 70, 50, 25 and 10 miles on Oct. 14.

Actor and Maine native Patrick Dempsey participated in the 50-mile cycling ride with professional cyclists Tom Danielson, Ted King, Freddie Rodriguez, Kristin McGrath, Ally Stacher, Alison Tetrick and paralympian gold medalist Matt Updike.

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Conference will spotlight human trafficking

An internationally known activist-educator will be among the speakers at a forum on human trafficking this month in Auburn.

Theresa Flores will share her personal story of sexual trafficking, slavery and survival at “Not Here: A Call to Action Against Human Trafficking,” a two-day conference scheduled for October 25 and 26 and sponsored in part by the Auburn Police Department.

When she was just 15 and a newly arrived resident of an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit, Theresa Flores was drugged, raped and tortured for two long years. While living at home and attending school during the day with her abusers, she was kept in bondage and called into ‘service’ late at night while her unknowing family slept. Involuntarily involved in a large criminal ring, Flores endured physical and psychological abuse; at one point she was literally “sold to the highest bidder.”

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Enough is Enough: Lewiston needs legislators who represent tax payers

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

To the chagrin of a small number of progressives—I’m back.

I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming support. I have no intention of resigning. As a result of this dust-up, I will definitely be seeking a second term.

While the press from across the state and country searched for me in an attempt to get a “gotcha” statement and while some angry residents decided to take time from work to picket City Hall, various staff members and myself were in Augusta engaged in productive meetings.

We met with the commissioner of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the commissioner of the Dept. of Economic and Community Development and a committee set up to strengthen the state’s welfare laws, which has been assigned the task of cutting $500,000 from the DHHS budget. I am happy to report things appear to be going in a positive direction.

On the home front, many of you have expressed offense and anger over Lewiston City Councilor Craig Saddlemire’s letter and public statement encouraging me to apologize. Please, folks, chill out. If Councilor Saddlemire had not taken this action, then I would have been disappointed in him.

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Baxter Brewing to expand again

In its inaugural year, Baxter Brewing Company set an all-time record for first-year production by a start-up craft brewery. Now, in its second year, the innovative craft-beer-in-a-can upstart in Lewiston broke ground Tuesday on an expansion that will increase capacity from 8,000 barrels to more than 33,000 barrels by the time it’s complete.

“All year, orders have called for three times as much beer as we’ve been able to make,” said Luke Livingston, Baxter founder and president. “Demand has so exceeded anything we could have predicted.  We didn’t expect to hit this kind of milestone for several years.”

This expansion is in addition to a doubling of original capacity that was completed a year ago, which enabled the brewery to add its third year-round variety, introduce a series of seasonal beers and grow distribution into Massachusetts.

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