"Thinking Beyond Paul LePage"
LePage on Jobs & the Economy
Headline: "Maine Governor's Pension Tax Exemption Plan Faces Bipartisan Skepticism" (MPBN,10/12/11). Legislators on both sides of the aisle have voiced concerns about LePage's plan to eliminate income tax on pensions. Sen. Dick Woodbury an independent from Yarmouth says this: "I think anytime that you give a particular tax advantage to one group over another, you're left having to charge higher rates on those who are still paying the taxes, and so to the extent that I think we should be changing our tax system, it's toward lowering the rates overall and at times offering fewer tax advantages to specific groups. So this isn't a direction that I'm inclined to support." Full story here. [Posted 10/12/11]
Is there any science to support the idea that more retirees will spend more than half the year in the state if taxes on pensions are eliminated? Is there any data to show that this social shift would impact Maine businesses in a significant way? It seems to us that LePage's plan to eliminate income tax on pensions is another shot in the dark based on a hunch and a prayer. In a perfect world, yes, you do eliminate this tax, but it is hard to see how Maine can afford it. Our own hunch is that many retirees who choose to live here are willing to pay higher taxes in exchange for "quality of place" that includes a clean environment, strong schools and universities, and excellent health & social service programs. More on the issue here. [Posted 10/11/11]
Boosting Profit Lines, Not Shortening Job Lines: Paul LePage is once again in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The state workers union has filed a "bad faith" complaint against LePage, stating that LePage seems intent on "destroying the very process" of contract negotiation.
LePage is hosting a series of "job creation" conferences that Bruce Borgoine says are "regulatory destruction conferences" in disguise. According to Borgoine, "Paul LePage believes that the process of ultimate decision-making regarding Maine's economy is not owned by all of us but by a very select few who are employers. From child labor restrictions to environmental and wise resource long-term management, his goal is to remove the state from the equation and let a wild west, Darwinian, and employer only serving market exist. The aim is boosting employer profit lines and not shortening job lines."
Meanwhile, LePage has spoken out in favor of changing child labor laws to allow 14 year olds to work without permits and to allow businesses to pay teens a training wage that is below minimum wage. LePage states parents should be entrusted with the work decisions concerning their own children. This sounds reasonable until you realize that child labor laws originated exactly because parents and employers were failing to protect children and to protect childhood. [Posted 10/25/11]
Extorting for Jobs: LePage repeatedly refers to the wealthy in Maine as if they are an endangered species who require special care and feeding if they are ever going to create those long-promised jobs. Well, guess what,.when you use a position of power to seek repeated concessions and provide nothing in return, there is a name for that. It's called extortion. To read our Parable about LePage and Jobs, click here.
Mixed Reviews: As we roll into summer, MPBN reports the good news that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently named Maine number one in terms of business-friendly infrastructure. A Cris Edward Johnson editorial in the Bangor Daily News argues that the Maine business community is practical rather than ideological -- and that no one should assume they are universally aligning themselves with Paul LePage.
The Kennebec Journal provides a summary and review of the just-ended legislative session. A Douglas Rooks editorial in SeacoastOnline.com argues that the LePage tax cuts set Maine up for serious budget problems as soon as 2 years down the road.
A Mother Jones column (also see chart below) explains how corporations are squeezing the American worker. LePage, however, still wants you to believe that all our problems are due to regulations, unions, and government. [Posted 6/26/11]
Word Watch: In today's radio address, LePage praises the now committee-approved budget proposal, stating it includes "pension reform that will help us save the system." Interesting use of the word reform, since it's not like there was anything wrong with the pension system, except that his predecessors had repeatedly borrowed from it. The word save is used equally loosely. It is accurate here only in the sense that the fox could somehow "save" the chickens through continued raids on the henhouse.
LePage lauds the fact that his budget proposals "create tax cuts for job creators." Here the phrase job creators is slipped in where we would normally expect the word wealthy. As if job creation and wealth are one in the same. As if all the money will go to create jobs for Maine people. As if any jobs actually created will necessarily pay a liveable wage. As if trickle down works. [Posted 6/11/11]
News Article: "Gov. Paul LePage’s administration testified in favor of the bill, saying it was not taking a stand on moral grounds but rather in hopes of helping businesses." (BDN, 6-8-11). On this highly controversial issue that pits the rights of transgender people against the privacy rights of others, Paul LePage comes down on the side of . . . BUSINESS. You gotta admit, LePage is predictable, if nothing else. [Posted 6/8/11]
Open for Business / Closed for Everything Else? What does it mean, really, “Open for business?” The problem is not so much what it says but what it doesn’t say. How about, “Also open for workers.” Open for retirees. Open for students. Open for families. Open for environmental protection. Open for farmers. Open for fishermen. Open for immigrants. Open for tourists. Open for innovation. Open for democracy. Open for progress. Open for everyone.
Three perfectly good words: “Open for Business.” Why the controversy? Business is good for Maine. How could anyone be saying that we don’t need more business? How could the placement of these words on a sign lead to such divisiveness? How can the words “open for business” be perceived as partisan?
For starters, let’s just say that if the LePage agenda were not so blatantly pro-business, anti-union, anti-worker, and anti-environment, the sign would be a lot less controversial . . . Read more | Vote in Our New Poll [Posted 6/2/11]
Headline: In weekly address, LePage says new health insurance bill will lower costs (BDN, 5/28/11). LePage continues to spit into the wind by proclaiming that the new health insurance bill, LD 1333, will not increase rates for the elderly and those living in rural areas.. LePage's statements are in stark contrast with those from other sources such as the BDN, for example, which states in an article from last week: "In a series of phased-in steps beginning in 2012, insurers will be able to charge adults who are older, who smoke, who are employed in high-risk occupations or who live in rural areas up to five times more than they charge younger, healthier residents of urban areas."
Five times as much qualifies as an increase, one would think!. It's easy to see where LePage has his fingers crossed behind his back, though. When he states the bill will not increase the rates for the elderly and those in rural areas, he is technically correct. The bill itself does not increase rates, but it sure does pave the way for the insurance companies to do just that. [Posted 5/30/11]
“It is not tax cuts for the rich, believe me. It is tax cuts for the poor.” -- Paul LePage, Newcastle Town Meeting (BDN, 5/20/11). Geez, who knew doubling that estate tax exemption and simultaneously cutting the circuit breaker property tax refund program would help the poor? The math on the income tax cuts is pretty simple. If you make a lot more money than your neighbor, you will get lot more in tax cuts. The fact is that those with incomes of up to $46,500 may be able to fill up their gas tanks once or twice due to this tax cut -- and the wealthy will get thousands more. [Posted 5/23/11]
Headline: Maine Lawmakers Loosen Teen Work Rules (BDN, 5/27/11). LePage is expected to sign into law the Republican-sponsored bill, which will allow 16 and 17-year olds to work as many as 6 hours on the afternoon / evening preceding a school day. Noteworthy is that this is yet another bill in which Republicans have aimed to bring Maine law in line with that in other states. If it is good enough for other states, the reasoning goes, it should be good enough for us. Apparently we have forgotten the motto, "I lead." This amended bill is more restrictive than the original bill but still will put teens more at the beck and call of employers. The working teens I have talked to seem easily pressured into taking on whatever schedule the employer has asked them to take -- and give consideration to schoolwork and school activities secondarily after that. [Posted 5/27/11]
Headline: "Report: State taxes least on business investments" (PPH, 4/15/11). A new study gives Maine the nation's #1 ranking for lowest effective taxes on new investments. LePage spokesperson Adrienne Bennett states the governor isn't taking stock in the report, preferring to listen to the business owners he talks to. However, instead of pooh-poohing it, some are already using the report to bring more business to the state. [Posted 5/15/11]
Headline: Maine’s projected red ink grows by $94 million (BDN, 5/3/11).Important to note that calling the $94 million a loss is using the term loosely. It is a only a loss in anticipated savings to have been achieved through proposed cuts that were a bad idea in the first place. The state never had that $94 million to begin with. It was a fiction -- and a bad fiction at that. But they are getting some good press out of it and creating just the climate necessary to get the public crying for blood. [Posted 5/3/11].
In his weekly Saturday radio address, Paul LePage invited Mainers who had ever encountered governmental red tape while setting up a or expanding a business to call a new hotline set up for the purpose of identifying and ultimately eliminating said red tape.
Fair enough. Undoubtedly there are government regulations that do hinder business growth. Undoubtedly LePage will collect all the ammo he needs to justify his war against state regulations of all kinds. He will get calls from land developers, construction companies, businesses denied permits due to zoning regulations, businesses denied permits due to environmental regulations, businesses that decided not to expand or hire new workers due to the costs of paying workman’s compensation, etc.
This hotline, however, will only tell half the story. So it is up to us to tell the other half. Some -- or even most -- government "red tape" exists for a reason. It protects health. It protects workers. It protects the environment. It protects neighbors. It protects other businesses. It protects consumers. Write LePage and ask him to set up another hotline so that he can hear the voices of those who have been protected from loss of health, property value, or money by regulations. Better yet, call the hotline and offer your stories about how existing zoning, health standards, environmental regulations, or worker protections have been a positive force in your community. If you have been taken advantage of by a local business or national corporation, let him know that too. The hotline number is 207-624-7486. [Posted 5/2/11].
Fact of the Day: 2.85%. That's the portion of the Maine state budget that goes into pension contributions in a given year. So even if you were to cut the state's portion by 33%, you would impact the state budget by less than 1%. Not quite the cash cow that LePage and others are making it out to be. It's not fair to solve the state's financial problems on the backs of state workers. Equally importantly, you won't be able to, even if you try. More facts on the state of the pension system here and here.
Headline: "Republicans Seek to Simplify State Taxes . . . (BDN, 4/18/11). Simple does not mean fair. This is a critical time in the debate about taxes. Maine citizens, please get informed and contact your legislators!
Drowning or Lying? Dirigo Blue provides video documentation and commentary of some of the misinformation LePage provided at the Topsham town meeting last week. Overall, Dirigo Blue's coverage shows a man who has little grasp of the details of the changes he is promoting. Either that or he is a shameless liar. For example, he significantly misrepresents the Child Labor bill and repeats a false claim that Mainer workers can be forced to join a union
In the case of the Child Labor Bill, LePage stated the training period was 9 days, when if fact the bill would allow employers to hire teen workers at well below the minimum wage for 180 days. Our commentary on the LePage's claim that unions are infringing on the Constitutional rights of Maine workers is here. Write LePage and let him know you notice it when he doesn't tell the truth.
The LePage Budget -- Ten Things Sure to Appall.
Thought for the Week:
If we aren't outraged by the proposed budget, we should be. In light of that, we'll be posting 10 appalling things about the Paul LePage budget in 10 days.
Commentary: Alternative Solutions to Pension Crisis (Times Record, 3/10/11)
Letter to the Editor: "Beware the Anger"
(Sun Journal, 4/3/11