LePage frustrated with state's debt

SALEM TOWNSHIP — Gov. Paul LePage visited businesses in Franklin County on Wednesday and shared his thoughts with residents at a town hall-style meeting in the evening.

Addressing approximately 100 residents at Mt. Abram High School, LePage expressed frustration with the recent Forbes Magazine review of the 50 states. In the magazine's Best States for Business and Careers survey, Maine was "dead last".

He said he wanted to know why.

"So we called them," he said.

The Forbes survey included a points system for each state's business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects, quality of life, and population, and its gross state product.

Maine's government "made some good efforts and has done some good things," he said a magazine representative told him, but unless welfare and energy costs were reduced, the state would continue to "stay in the basement."

LePage also noted the importance of supporting residents who truly needed help but weeding out those who could work but wouldn't. He expressed frustration with those who move to Maine from other states, because "we're generous with our benefits."

He addressed accountability in schools that produce students who graduate with few skills and students who require tutoring to complete basic freshman college classes.

Maine has a high school dropout rate, he noted, but the state also hears from companies that have jobs available and can't find trained workers. Not every student wants to go to college, he said, but schools have pushed them in that direction.

LePage suggested the flow of incoming revenues could not offset the outflow of monies for energy and welfare.

"We have more of the citizens on MaineCare or Medicare than we have taxpayers paying into the system," he said.

There are many loopholes in the tax system, he suggested. More people spend six months and one day of the year in states with lower taxes, so the state loses that revenue. The state pays its workers only 82 percent of the salary those workers would receive in most other states for the same job.

The state's outstanding debts are daunting, he said.

"You can only not pay your bills for so long," he said.

Even when the state has knocked down part of its debt load, the recession hasn't offered many chances to make long-term gains.

"We owed $400 million to the hospitals in the state, and we've paid $282 million of that," he said. "Now we're back to owing $400 million again."

William Crandall, who works for the Western Maine Community Action Program, asked if the state could investigate the option to install pellets stoves in homes. Mount Abram high school, Crandall also noted, has a pellet boiler to heat the building. Why not provide incentives for municipalities and schools to switch to wood heat, he asked.

LePage said he planned to work with small banks, set revenues aside, and take funds from the Efficiency Main energy program to make alternative energy sources more available.

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off the table

When you take income off the table you can't be too surprised that you will have money woes. We're poor because we refuse to do anything to generate income. Things cost what they cost. There is no cheap medical care for anybody. Jobs are scarce and many of them don't pay enough to live on. Health insurance benefits for working people are going the way of our snow banks. The more uninsured people you have the more expensive Maine Care will be. With the budget cuts coming down hospitals are expecting a shortfall. They will be shedding jobs and raising prices. The $4 asperin will become the $8 asperin. More uninsured and higher health insurance costs are sure to follow. The more hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and pharmaceutical companies raise their rates, the higher the cost of Maine Care will be even with fewer claimants. This will amount to cost shifting not cost saving and some of the cost will be the lives of some of the poor.

 's picture

energy costs

LePage said he does not like RGGI, RPS and EM because it causes electric rates to go up. Not good for Maine business.
Yet, we know GRID scale WINd is causing electricity prices to go up and he does not stop WIND.

Mike Lachance's picture

Wind power is a fools fantasy

Wind power is a fools fantasy utopian solution. Its a nice add-on but cannot produce enough to justify its cost, foorprint, and environmental debauchery. One of the few posts critical of LePage that I can stand behind.

If youve ever been through Palm Springs, CA, you'll see what wind power requires to be an effective power source... google "palm springs windmills" and see... I've driven thru Palm Springs enough times to fully understand its windmill ugliness.

 's picture

I attended this meeting. The

I attended this meeting. The Governor brought up an emergency situation about to take place. With LIHEAP funding decreasing significantly, there will be many without adequate heat this winter.
He proposes taking money out of the Efficiency Maine program to help alleviate this emergency. A good part of the money for Efficiency Maine comes from a surtax on our electric bill. I am more than happy to have the money I've paid in this go to help other people out of a dire situation.
I further propose that municipalities take a look at the various municipal departmental budgets and if any department has seen an increase over last year's budget, proclaim a Health and Welfare Emergency and allocate funds from these increases to help their citizens.

Jason Theriault's picture

How is that any more of an emergency?

How is that anymore of an emergency that those without healthcare? Hell, at least with healthcare, there is a random element to it. You don't know when you'll have a medical emergency. Heat is a whole different matter. You know you will have to heat your living space from November to March at a minimum. If you can't afford heat, you need to move. Either to a smaller living space or to some place where you don't need to heat.

 's picture

I do believe a hospital will

I do believe a hospital will help you in an emergency, while a furnace ain't much help without fuel.

Mike Lachance's picture

Jason, seriously? Having a

Jason, seriously? Having a cyst removed is more important than freezing to DEATH (literally)...
Wake up. Heating assistance is priority No.1 for those who are without. Healthcare and "green energy" are both FAR less important.

Have you ever run out of Oil in the middle of January at 6pm? I could care less about my "healthcare benefits" at a moment like that...

Jason Theriault's picture

A couple of things:

1. Yes, I have run out of fuel, but it was more like 10 pm. I went to the gas station, bought some diesel, purged my fuel line(a first for me at that point), and got myself up and running again.

2. I'm not trying to be harsh or a jerk, but how is this different than having a house you can't afford or a car your can't afford? The reason I ask, is other services get cut, and it's almost a matter of pride to LePage. Why not just take the same stance and say "Tough."? Especially since it's not like winter is some sort of surpirse. You know it's comming. I know some people, who looking at their heating bill, moved this fall. They knew they couldn't afford it anymore. Why do we need to save people who can't figure this out?

3. Yes, having cysts removed is the worst health emergency hospitals encounter. I bet you wouldn't give a damn how warm your house is if your having a heart attack or a stroke.

Mike Lachance's picture

Jason, You're right and

Jason, You're right and Diesel works in a pinch just fine for #2. (Have done it also and all was well until next delivery)... but most people (women, children, elderly, etc) are not as intimate with their boilers as we are. I came home one evening a few years ago and my 13 y.o. daughter was watching tv in a 53F. house like nothing was wrong. (I never got a call!) I had the house back up to temp in a couple hours, but if I wasnt around it would have become a real emergency later that evening.

As far as a heart attack goes, you dont need health insurance to get treated for serious issues like that. Theyll treat anyone and are obligated by law to do so, insurance or not. (Otherwise we'd all have WAY lower rates!)

We are already paying for the uninsured.

Regardless, I dont believe we disagree too much on the overall concepts here, but there are a few points I wanted to emphasize.

 's picture

Stubborn pride is an

Stubborn pride is an attribute many Mainers have. They would tough it out rather than ask for help. You, Jason, are tough and, like you, I would have gone and bought fuel and got my heat restored. I also, have the feeling you would come to the aid of a fellow citizen if they were in the same situation. Enduring the stinging cold within what is your shelter isn't fun and many are being caught in this situation this winter. Just, give what you can. It might make you feel better.

Jason Theriault's picture

What I'm worried about

I guess it just bothers me that we would look to make up the difference in a federal program that I would put into the "nice to have" category. Cause if it goes away, are we going to have to fund this ourselves?

Mike Lachance's picture

Thats the good point that

Thats the good point that needs to be asked and I agree with the premise of your question... however, I dont have the answer. My neighbor is single, disabled, has no job, and has to rent out rooms in his small house to pay his bills.... its folks like that who are screwed. (and his tenants are anything but upstanding)



Anyone who thinks Forbes is an independent assessor of Maine's economy needs to think again. They are nothing more than a right wing media tool and they don't even get that right. They named Portland one of the best cities to do business in just a few months before. Do you suppose they don't know it's in Maine and has the same taxes the rest of Maine has and the same energy costs? In fact Portland is the most liberal part of Maine and has the highest number of welfare recipients. And if you read only the headline you get the idea that the article supports the governor's policies but if you read the article it blames energy costs, health insurance rates (which have gone up in some places thanks to Maine's new health insurance law), an untrained and elderly work force and declining population none of which the governor's policies address. In fact the cuts to Maine Care will boomerang into losses to hospitals then to higher health insurance costs for all those who are insured. Increasing the number of uninsured Mainers will result in a sicker work force and giving tax breaks to attract retirees to Maine will put more old people on Maine Care once their money runs out.

Mike Lachance's picture

Claire, why would a "right

Claire, why would a "right wing media tool" say anything nice about Portland (a mecca of left-wing idealogues and zealots)... Weak.

 's picture

LePage's ability to twist the facts

I find it extremely interesting that LePage takes facts and twists them to fit his perspective. There was nothing in the Forbes review that stated anything about welfare. I agree that we are failing our children by not educating them properly. This is a nationwide problem. This is also a joint problem with our parents and the school system. However, when I was first starting out in the business world, companies expected to have to train their employees. For every job we had a certain amount of training time, and one either succeeded or didn't. If one didn't succeed, the company let you go. Also, I wonder why LePage found it necessary to fold in Medicare (a federal program) with MaineCare -- could it be to inflate the numbers? Plus, how did the amount owed to the hospitals increase to $400M again? Haven't we been paying the hospitals? And, finally, LePage found it so important to increase the inheritance tax exclusion amount which cost us a great deal of money, instead of paying our bills. Now, he complains about deficits. When you decrease revenues, it causes a real problem.

Mark Elliott's picture

Doreen, the Forbes review may

Doreen, the Forbes review may not have said anything about welfare but the quote in the article wasn't LePages, it came from a Forbes representative. The writer just failed to put "Forbes said:" in front of it.

 's picture

I don't think so

It is clear from the following quote: LePage suggested the flow of incoming revenues could not offset the outflow of monies for energy and welfare.

"We have more of the citizens on MaineCare or Medicare than we have taxpayers paying into the system," he said.

This was not a Forbes quote but a LePage quote which we now know (from today's article) was a lie. And, now his staff is lying also.

Mike Lachance's picture

what was that about twisting

what was that about twisting facts.... ?

Robert McQueeney's picture

Has anyone looked into the

Has anyone looked into the viability of some really energy efficient means to heat some of these homes? Sure, the upfront costs are high, but the savings in years to come will more than offset that in just a few years. Since it certainly looks like we are paying the annual fuel costs for the for-see-able future anyways, why not upgrade? Geothermal is very energy efficient, as well as heat pumps. Not much fossil fuel use in these systems, if any. And the cost of fossil fuel is only heading up.

I well know the old argument: What about people who are supporting themselves and receive no aid, because they are just above the threshold, earnings wise? I've been there, one year earning $200.00 too much, so I got nothing, not even a sliding scale form of assistance. That should also be addressed.

Energy Saving

I turn that boiler off all day when I'm not home not paying for oil to heat water all day when no one's home.
That is such a waste timers help granted its not -20 degrees outside. We need these programmable timers to be able to turn the furnace off completely at times and an interface with our existing old bucket i mean beckett burners. I'm doing it but its not been easy ... it should be.


Mike Lachance's picture

Mike, if youre like me, Ill

Mike, if youre like me, Ill assume youve studied up on outdoor reset and indoor reset technologies... there is a small investment in each, but the indoor reset is a new concept.. outdoor reset is older tech. Eaither way its not the magic answer but it can help reduce oil consumption by 10-20% over a given heating season. check out the IntelliconHW+ for indoor reset and any number of Outdoor reset units... I think the demand is increasing for these microprocessor controlled solutions and more mfrs are exploring the different methods.

Geothermal is an awesome technology too, but the upfront cost is a bit staggering.

 's picture

just because of forbes mag?

just because of forbes mag?

Mark Elliott's picture

It isn't "just because of

It isn't "just because of forbes mag".....when an independent third party rates us as low as they did, it is our governors duty to ask "why did you grade us so low"....and as it turns out, the reason is very much the same Lepage has been saying all along. How many more independent agencies have to come to the same conclusion as LePage before you acknowledge that maybe he is really on to something?

Reiterate :)

but unless welfare and energy costs were reduced, the state would continue to "stay in the basement."

 's picture

Useless energy costs?

Useless energy costs? Useless energy costs? What?

Mike Lachance's picture

Hey Dan, I am anything but

Hey Dan, I am anything but wealthy. I got more money back from my tax returns than I paid out last year and the year before, (and the year before that). Yes, the Govt GAVE me free money. Why? It was the tax code of rebates, credits, EIC, deductions, children, etc etc... Its a LIE to say that the rich are getting tax breaks when the MIDDLE CLASS and DOWN dont pay a PENNY.

Not a cent. Its not tax evasion its the tax code.

Stop the LIE.

Mark Elliott's picture

Please provide a link to the

Please provide a link to the source of your info......it is my understanding the tax breaks went to Mainers making $19,950 to $39,950. Since when is $ 19,950 or $ 39,950 wealthy ? ! ?

Mark Elliott's picture

Insert {{crickets

Insert {{crickets chirping}}....

Mike Lachance's picture

So what am I recieving? Those

So what am I recieving? Those wealthiest Mainers "MASSIVE tax cut" equates to them still paying more in taxes than I do with my lower-middle class tax code.

Tell me how their effective tax rate is less than mine when i actually get paid by the Govt a net income and those wealthiest actually PAY the govt taxes. Taking from the rich and giving to me (almost poor) is the reality. Those are the facts, which you can choose to keep ignoring for the sake of a weak arguement that has zero basis on reality.

The wealthy still pay more in effective tax rates than the middle, lower middle and lowest income families.

Joe Morin's picture

A little scary Mike..

... that everyone's great idea is for the other guy to pay up. Words like "massive" & "rich" are so subjective and I see the baseline for folks considered rich to be getting lower & lower. I see the middle class getting pinched. Muli-national corps paying nothing oh and a whole non-working pay nothing. The issue isn't small & medium businesses or good earning individuals...but who better to blame than the guy just up the hill.

Mike Lachance's picture

of note: "a whole non-working

of note: "a whole non-working pay nothing" but they also GET PAID for it! In IRS and State credits! My lower middle class household pays taxes, but every year we get it all back plus a few thousand in credits etc. so my effective tax rate is a negative in my favor. I get PAID BACK by the govt MORE than I pay THEM.

The "rich" and small businesses dont enjoy this charade. They have some breaks, and some credits, but on the whole their effective tax rates are way more than the average citizen.

The more we pay the lazy, poor, and or working class in tax credits beyond their contributions, the higher taxes will be for businesses. And thats one reaosn businesses leave the state or nation. Giving the businesses a tax break in this economy only makes sense if you eliminate the tax hand outs given to those who dont pay in to the system, and cut off the refund amounts when they exceed contributions. I know at least three families (including my own) who get back thousands of dollars MORE than they have paid in from the iRS and state every year because of EIC and children.

Tax break for the 'rich'? Heck ya, and while youre at it cut the rates for businesses in Maine while kicking the rates UP for the lower earners and middle class.

A flat tax would wake up alot of people to what "fair share" really means.

 's picture

not enough

rich can pay more and corps too.


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