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Governor’s Address: Democrats Play Politics with Our Elderly Homeowners

I have been working hard to protect our elderly Mainers and to help them stay in their homes. But Democrats in Augusta are playing politics again. They say they want to help the elderly, but they are pulling a bait-and-switch.

I had proposed a bill, LD 1629 “An Act To Protect the Elderly from Tax Lien Foreclosures,” that would protect senior citizens and the elderly from municipalities that want to take their homes for back taxes.

My bill would do two very simple, common-sense things to help protect the interests of our seniors.

One, it would provide notification that the homeowner has the right to file an application for abatement and has the right to seek assistance through the State’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

And two, it would require that if a homeowner who is 65 or older is foreclosed on, their property should be sold by an independent broker – instead of through the opaque municipal auction process.

After all expenses by the municipality are paid, the remaining proceeds from the sale would be refunded to the former owner.

The town would be made whole, and the senior citizen would retain most of the equity he or she had built up over a lifetime. This is as close as you can get to a win-win in a difficult situation.

But members of the Taxation Committee voted to water down my bill. They only want to include some additional notification in the process.

Instead of truly helping the elderly – like my bill would have done – they are doing just enough to check the box and make it look like they have taken action to help our seniors.

These legislators are siding with the Maine Municipal Association, which is funded with taxpayer dollars. But MMA always fights against any initiative that would actually benefit hard-working property-tax payers. It is a clear conflict of interest.

MMA Executive Director Stephen W. Gove and MMA lobbyist Kate Dufour vigorously oppose our efforts to help keep the elderly in their homes – even though the elderly are paying the property taxes that bankroll Gove and Dufour’s salaries.

Folks, Maine Municipal Association has proven that it is the enemy of the elderly in Maine.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Legal Services for the Elderly, and the Maine Council on Aging all testified in support of this bill. I thank them for standing up for what is right.

AARP was a “no show” at the hearing and submitted no written testimony. I question whether AARP is truly an advocate for our seniors or whether AARP would rather not offend Democrats than prevent our seniors from homelessness and destitution.

The amended version of the bill that the Democrats supported is nothing more than a feel-good attempt to make it look like they really are helping the elderly.

I implore you to contact your legislators and tell them to do what is right for our elderly Mainers.

Tell them to stop playing games with people’s lives.

Tell them to help our elderly stay in their homes they worked so hard to earn.

Thank you.

Paul LePage

Governor

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