Searsport: Windmill parts are unloaded because of state and federal funds that improved the port’s infrastructure. Courtesy photo
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division, from 2000 through November 2010 Maine exports grew 56 percent. With the arrival of a new cargo shipping business to Portland, exports and imports are expected to increase.
“To have a major business come to the city and to all of a sudden open up markets to businesses throughout the region, in ways that we haven’t in the past, is what we worked for and hoped for,” said Portland Mayor Michael Brennan.
Officials drive pillions for the port of Portland’s infrastructure improvements in ’09 federal grants and state bonds helped the project. Courtesy photo
Eimskip operates a fleet of 17 cargo ships in the North Atlantic and has begun to make port at the Portland International Marine Terminal every two weeks. Many small businesses can’t afford to fly their goods overseas, and some have been forced to ship out of Boston. Now they can ship right here to markets in eastern Canada and Europe. Eimskip’s import/export shipping service will open up markets to Maine businesses of all kinds.
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Governor John Baldacci at Madison paper mill in ‘07. When he came to office mills were closing in on instance he had the state police protect a mill from asset raiders. He worked tirelessly to save many of these companies helping them transform their businesses. Photo by Ramona du Houx
Governor John E. Baldacci has been giving addresses at different events around the state to spread awareness about the nation’s $16 trillion debt. Baldacci said that at the core of the issue is the inability of Congress to take meaningful action to get the country’s books in order.
“It’s a serious issue,” said Baldacci. “Because of the interest payments, we have less to spend on programs that could stimulate the economy and help create jobs — $600 billion less. These interest payments are crowding out a lot of expenditures in health care, in education, in economic development, and for Department of Defense issues. It hurts our ability to protect our country — to protect the programs our citizens, especially our most vulnerable, need — and to invest.”
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Tags: Maine's quality of life
March 27th, 2013 · Filed under: Issue 36
Lawmakers move forward to grow Maine’s middle class with workforce and economic development, despite distractions—
EDITORIAL: That’s Maine’s way, not LePage’s way
Senate President Alfond and Speaker of the House Eves talk to the press about growing the economy. Photo by Ramona du Houx
• Sen. Alfond grows economic development & education opportunities
• The new Speaker of the House, Mark Eves, stands up for the middle class
• Governor Baldacci on the 2014 race and the importance of fixing the national debt
Public / private partnerships help economic growth—
• Ports increase business, and biofuel companies gear up for opportunities
• Workforce & Economic Future Committee: building on Maine’s strengths
• Study: Rail service from Portland to Lewiston/Auburn
Sustainable alternative energy grows jobs—
• ReVison Energy: Solar panel installer and car recharger installer
• UMaine buoy system measures high-altitude wind speeds over ocean
• PUC approves $120M Statoil offshore floating wind turbine project – will produce clean energy and jobs
• Efficiency Maine increased investment approved by Utilities Commission
Changing practices in government & business—
• Voter-approved bonds would generate over 3,200 jobs immediately
• Plan to pay hospital debt, reform hospital billing, and cover all Mainers
Maine State Capitol. photo by Ramona du Houx
• LePage proposes raising taxes to pay for his income tax cuts for wealthy
• Public outcry against more education cuts
• New tax fairness bill
• Increase the minimum wage bill
• Two bills to help businesses compete online
• Suicide-prevention bill unanimously endorsed by panel
People and communities make the difference—
Charles Shay’s new book on his experiences during D-day and Chosin.
• Penobscot elder Charles Shay, recalls D-day and Chosin in new book
• Biggest climate change rally in DC with Mainers
• Congressman Michaud receives lifetime achievement award for economic development work
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1787
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The Portland City Council late tonight passed by a vote of 7-2 a resolution expressing concern with oil industry’s potential use of the aging Portland-Montreal pipeline to carry tar sands through the Sebago Lake watershed and to Portland Harbor, where it would be loaded onto tankers.
At the meeting, Environment Maine announced that 3,065 Portlanders have signed petitions, sent letters, or written emails asking the City Council to protect the city from the tar sands pipeline project.
“We applaud the Portland City Council for passing this resolution to protect our drinking water, the beauty of Sebago Lake, and Casco Bay,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “Recent tar sands spills in Arkansas and Michigan provide a first-hand glimpse of what we could see here if we don’t stop this reckless project. Portland has everything to lose and nothing to gain from the project.”
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Tags: Climate change
By Representative Linda Sanborn – a retired family physician from Gorham.
In the coming days, the state of Maine has an opportunity to pay back the debt owed to our hospitals and contain the rising costs of health care for our people and hospitals. The Legislature will be sending Governor Paul LePage a bill to pay back Maine’s hospitals and to accept federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people. It’s an offer he shouldn’t refuse.
Democrats have put forward a comprehensive plan that not only pays the debt; we make sure we don’t get back here in the future. Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs.
As a family physician, I can tell you first hand that when people without insurance get sick, they often end up getting care in the emergency room — where it is most costly. The cost of that care is often picked up by hospitals in the form of “charity care” and then passed on to anyone with private insurance.
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The head of York Hospital joined local lawmakers and business owners Friday to call on the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage to accept federal dollars so nearly 70,000 more Mainers can have access to health care.
Jud Knox, CEO and president of York Hospital, said accepting federal health care dollars is consistent with the hospital’s long-held mission of providing health care to everyone who comes through its doors.“To me, it’s the principle of access. I’m a provider of medical care. I believe people should get it,” said Knox.
Jim Stott, co-owner of York-based Stonewall Kitchen, said his business is able to provide health care insurance to its 500 businesses but other businesses are unable to do so. “Luckily we’re able to provide health insurance for our employees,” he said. “But a lot of other Mainers who work hard aren’t able to afford it. I want those Maine workers to have the same security of health care coverage. When you’re living hand-to-mouth, health care can go to the bottom of the list.”
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Tags: Government transparency·Health and Human Services
Spring in Augusta at Maine's Capitol. photo by Ramona du Houx
A bill to expand early childhood education to every school district in Maine was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall May 17, 2013 in front of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. Currently, there are 172 School Administrative Units in the state with elementary schools and 60 percent of which offer some kind of pre-k. Goodall’s measure is designed to provide the momentum for school units to reach 100 percent.
“Early childhood education is one of those issues where there is so much unity about its importance and so much agreement about expanding it,” said Sen.Goodall. “We know that what gets planned is what gets done. We have the data, we have the support, let’s not delay in providing every child an opportunity for success. ”
During the State of the Union President Barack Obama promoted early childhood education saying the we need to make it a national priority. in Waterville, Maine the federal government helped to fund the Educare, an early childhood education center that is proving to be a model for replication in different regions across the state, and beyond.
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LePage sits in on budget meeting and insults
The Capitol, Augusta, Maine. photo by Ramona du Houx
a two hour meeting on Sunday with the state’s budget-writing committee, Governor Paul LePage’s claims of an eleventh-hour crisis in the Department of Health and Human Services were debunked by representatives of his own Administration. The emergency meeting was held in response to letters LePage sent to Legislative leaders about the funding shortage late in the day on Friday.
The Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and the Governor’s top budget writing officer Sawin Millett confirmed that the shortage had already been addressed in a $35.5 million package of changes to the budget presented to the committee last week.
“It seems clear that this was a manufactured crisis. The shortfall at DHHS was covered in the change package we have spent the past week reviewing with Commissioner Millett,” said Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate chair of the committee. “During that time, as late as Friday, the administration gave no sense of urgency, let alone the crisis portrayed by Governor LePage’s letter.”
The Governor took the highly unusual step of attending the Appropriations meeting.
“We are approaching an endpoint with solving the state’s budget and it is not helpful to inject politics into the process. We need to park our politics at the door,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House chair of the committee. “In the eleven years I’ve served on this committee, I’ve never seen such highly irregular and indirect communication about such serious claims from an administration.”
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Tags: Government transparency·Health and Human Services
Dhaka Savar Building collapse on April 24, 2013 killing over 1,000 garment workers
On 24 April 2013, an eight-story commercial building, Rana Plaza, collapsed in Savar, a sub-district in the Greater Dhaka Area, the capital of Bangladesh. Approximately 2,500 people were injured and more than 2,500 people were rescued from the building alive. The death toll stands at 1,127.It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history.
The building contained clothing factories, a bank, apartments, and several other shops. The shops and the bank on the lower floors immediately closed after cracks were discovered in the building. Warnings to avoid using the building after cracks appeared the day before had been ignored. Garment workers were ordered to return the following day and the building collapsed during the morning rush-hour.
In Congress, Senior House Democrats have sent letters to nine separate U.S. retailers calling upon them to join a broadening global coalition supporting a May 12 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, developed by the Worker Rights Consortium and a number of key stakeholders. The accord has won the support of labor rights organizations and unions around the world, and it has gained significant momentum among buyers, with Abercrombie & Fitch, Aldi, Benetton, C&A, Carrefour, El Corte Inglés, Esprit, G-Star, H&M, Helly Hansen, Hess Natur, Inditex, JCB, KIK, LIDL, Loblaws, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, N. Brown group, New Look, Next, Primark, PVH, Rewe, Sainsbury’s, Stockmann, Switcher, Tchibo, Tesco, and WE Group having signed on already.
The letters were signed by Leader Nancy Pelosi, Whip Steny Hoyer, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller, Rep. John Lewis, Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Labor, Education, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Mike Michaud.
“Circumstances are at a tipping point in Bangladesh, much as they were in the wake of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York over a century ago. …We urge you to seize this moment, and to help ensure that workers in Bangladesh do not needlessly lose their lives to produce the clothes we wear,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to the retailers.
Tags: labor issues·World News
Poll found 67 percent supporting accepting ACA federal funds for expanding healthcare in Maine
The Veterans and Legal Affairs committee passed a comprehensive measure that would make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and reduce future hospital costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover tens of thousands of Mainers. The hospital payment would be made through refinancing the state’s liquor contract. The bill passed in a vote of 7-5.
Earlier in the day, Mainers showed up at the State House urging lawmakers to pass the comprehensive measure. “Not knowing whether your medical needs or possible future medical needs are covered weighs on you. It’s having that security that helps you get up and go to work every day and go on with your life, health care coverage is key to moving ahead.” said U.S. Navy veteran Tom Ptacek, who will loose his healthcare coverage in January if it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act.Ptacek, who has experienced homelessness in the past, spoke to about 30 lawmakers.
According to estimates prepared by the Health and Human Services committee in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services and the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Program Review, the state will save $8.6 million dollars in 2013-2015 from accepting federal funds to cover more Mainers. The savings comes from the increased match rate. There is no fiscal note- no debt to the state. This savings offsets any cost of associated with administering the program. Also, the federal government covers 75 percent of the cost of that administration, which is approximately $4 million.
The plan is comprehensive making sure hospitals are protected by unexpected debt.
“Not only do we pay back our hospitals, but we also ensure that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “By doing so we reduce the charity care costs and bad debt that are cost drivers for our hospitals. To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.”
According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care cost $450 million last year, up $32 million from the year before.
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Tags: Health and Human Services·Maine's quality of life
A number of significant reforms that Congresswoman Chellie Pingree authored as part of her Local Farms Food and Jobs Act were adopted this week by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. The Committees, controlled by Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, voted in favor of two versions of a Farm Bill that contain Pingree’s reforms designed to open new markets for sustainable farmers and increase consumer access to local food. The Farm Bill passed the Senate Committee on Tuesday and the House Committee late last night.
“Farm policy in this country has been skewed in favor of big agribusinesses but in the last year we’ve made some significant progress in reforming it in favor of local, sustainable farms,” Pingree said. “These ideas are rapidly becoming more mainstream as consumers realize that local food isn’t just good for their families but it’s good for the local economy too.”
Pingree first introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act in the House in 2011 with Senator Sherrod Brown. Since then, many of the proposals in her bill were adopted as part of the Farm Bill, the 5-year funding bill that determines national farm policy.
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The Legislature on Wednesday took the first step toward crafting a comprehensive bill to make the final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and to have the state accept federal health care dollars to expand coverage to thousands of residents.
“As the Legislature makes the final payment to Maine’s hospitals, we must also address the underlying problem of our high hospital costs,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “To do one without the other would leave the job half done. We can’t just treat the symptom; we have to treat the problem.”
In March, Democrats announced a comprehensive plan that would address both health care issues at the same time.
“It is morally and economically the right thing to do to address the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people, said Senate President Justin Alfond. “People’s lives are on the line. Now is the time to do this.”
On Wednesday, lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee voted 10-4 to strongly urge that language on accepting federal health care dollars be part of a bill to repay Maine’s hospitals. Republican Rep. Carol McElwee of Caribou voted with the Democrats. The committee will send a letter to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which has been overseeing a plan to complete repayment through the refinancing of the state’s liquor contract.
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Earlier today, the Senate voted in a party-line vote of 20-15 to pass a measure that would include social workers among the professions who currently receive loan forgiveness if they work and live in Maine.
“All we need to do is look at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has a chronic shortage of social workers,” said Senator Rebecca Millett. “Social workers watch over our abused children, and help put Maine families in crisis back together. They do jobs that save lives, and this bill will allow more social workers to stay in Maine and do their good work.”
The measure provides $20,000 per year for up to 40 applicants to receive student loan assistance through the Finance Authority of Maine. Currently, loan relief is available for no more than three applicants.
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Tags: Health and Human Services