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This week’s edition!

Enough is Enough: Legislators should cast their vote for the taxpayers

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

Starting next week, this column will deal with economic development, train service and the improvement of our inner city neighborhood. What will not be in the mix is welfare.

Why? Because it is crystal clear that this issue is not that important to the citizens of Lewiston-Auburn.

In my quest to reform welfare, I have received support from Governor Paul R. LePage, Senator Eric Brakey, Senator Mike Thibodeau, Senator Garrett Mason, Representative Ken Fredette and Representative Jeff Timberlake. They have taken an active position on General Assistance reform.

But local support is what counts. With the exception of a very few letters to the editor, the Lewiston-Auburn public has shown little interest in reform. The subject is treated by local officials like they were dealing with “Typhoid Mary.”

But I get it. The citizens of Lewiston-Auburn want me to move on. This may be my last column on the subject of General Assistance. So let me close by pointing out a few items to ponder.

On May 12, you went to the polls to vote on the school budget. Prior to the vote, the Lewiston School Department sent out a flyer to all voters containing the budget numbers and the facts used in the creation of next year’s school budget. Did you read this?

Did anything under School Budget Expenditures catch your eye? It showed a $1.7 million increase in Special Education —a 10.9% increase! An explanation followed: “The Special Education services are mandated by law and have accelerated in recent years because families are attracted to Lewiston as a service center.”

The cost could be higher. However, the flyer goes on to say: “This budget includes further expansion for our in-house autism program to reduce the need for private school placement.” Does any of this sound familiar?

Then we have the altruistic City of Portland, one of the biggest obstacles to welfare reform in the State of Maine. They are now starting to feel the fiscal pain they have inflicted over the years on the Lewiston-Auburn community. Currently, they stand to lose $4.8 million in state aid.

This aid will have to be made up by Portland property taxpayers. This will occur if the cities of Portland and Westbrook and the Maine Municipal Association lose a lawsuit they have pending before the court. This lawsuit, if they win, would force Maine state government to fully reimburse local taxpayer money spent by local municipalities to support asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are not recognized as warranting support by either the federal or state government.

Our friends in Portland have reached a fork in the road. If they lose their lawsuit, they will have to decide whether to continue to support asylum seekers, which will mean raising $5.7 million on the backs of the Portland property taxpayers.

Or they can remove them from the general assistance rolls and let the Churches and the advocacy groups that make a living off the poor support them.

This week the Maine State Legislature is addressing, debating and voting on welfare reform. The passage of three of these bills, LD 722, LD 368 and LD 369, is critical if Lewiston and Auburn hope to redefine themselves.

The vote will be close. I am hoping that our local legislators will cast their vote for the taxpayers and not the Democratic Party and their supporters, many of whom make their living off the poor.

Lastly, if those bills go down to defeat and your taxes continue to rise, before you call any elected municipal official, look in the mirror and ask: What did I do to stop this?

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