Entries Filed in 'Economy'
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced that a maritime shipping company has been selected to design a new vessel that would provide cargo service between Portland and New York, with a possible stop at another port in Southern New England. The design contract, for an articulated tug-barge, was funded by a $150,000 federal grant that Pingree had pushed for.The agreement between the Maine Port Authority and McAllister Towing and Transportation, calls for the initial design work to be completed by fall.
“The design of this vessel is the key to bringing increased domestic cargo service to Maine,” said Pingree. “This type of vessel will suit the needs of shippers in Maine and New York. It could cost between 1/3 and 1/2 what a more traditional container ship would cost and use fewer crew, thus reducing capital and operational costs that could then be passed on to shippers.”
Last year Pingree hosted a tour of the International Marine Terminal in Portland for U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. She told Matsuda that a new tug-barge design was the best option for starting a service that would movecargo between the Port of New York/New Jersey and Portland and urged him toapprove federal funding for the design. It’s important to spend time on the front end to design a vessel that fits the needs of shippers.
“We always work with our shippers first,” said John Henshaw, Executive Director of the Maine Port Authority. “With port infrastructure design, equipment investment, terminal layout – and in this case vessel design – we always begin with the customer.”
Read more ›
Workers at ALCOM, a trailer manufacturer in Winslow, have been organizing for a union in their workplace. They are seeking representation with the Laborers Union (LiUNA). Since Friday, at least five workers have been fired. Many of their co-workers feel their termination was directly related to their union activity. The Company denies the charges.
“I like the work that I do, and I’m proud to be a good, dedicated worker. I have put nothing but hard work and extra hours in at ALCOM,” said Shawn Nutt of Vassalboro, a worker who was fired from ALCOM on Monday. “It’s clear to me that I was fired because I support the union and want to have a voice on the job. The company is trying to scare us.”
It is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act for an employer to retaliate in any way against a worker for engaging in union activity or concerted action to improve workplace conditions. Workers, unions, and employers can file Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board to spur an investigation into violations of the law.
Read more ›
Tags: Jobs·Maine's quality of life·unions
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.
Read more ›
Tags: Health and Human Services·Maine's quality of life
A new statewide poll released today shows that Maine voters overwhelmingly support accepting Affordable Care Act (ACA) federal dollars to expand access to health care for nearly 69,500 Mainers who are currently uninsured.
The poll, which was conduced May 1-7 by Critical Insights, found that 67 percent of respondents support accepting federal funds to expand health care, while 23 percent don’t. The results are similar to a March 31-April 3 poll conducted by the Maine People’s Resource Center that found 68.1 percent of respondents support accepting federal dollars to expand health care.
“Expanding access to affordable health care to thousands of people in our communities makes sense for Maine,” said Sara Gagné-Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners. “Accepting federal funds will enable thousands of Maine people to be healthier and more secure knowing that they have access to care when they need it. It is an opportunity Maine cannot afford to pass up.”
Read more ›
Maine state Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx
Business, education, and labor leaders gathered today to celebrate with lawmakers a major bill that would address the skills gap and workforce training, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future.”
“This measure is good for Maine’s economy and businesses,” said Dana Connors, the President of the Maine State Chamber. “This effort is so successful because it has good ideas, good intentions, and it sets priorities. It is a true partnership and should be a model for all of the work in Augusta.”
Read more ›
Lobster boat fishing off Belfast, Maine. photo by Ramona du Houx
“Anyone who goes overseas and puts their life on the line should be able to return home and re-enter the fishery like they never left. I believe we owe our service members that much,” said Rocky Alley, a Lobstermen from Jonesport. Alley’s son Jamie was in this situation, when he went to serve overseas and lost his place in line for a license.
Lobstermen members of the newly formed Maine Lobstering Union (IMLU) spoke up at a public hearing for LD 1448, a bill to allow lobstermen and other marine harvesters to maintain their licenses while serving in the military.
Under current law, individuals who hold lobstering or other marine resource licenses who go to serve in the military must pay fees to keep their license active while they are serving, even though they are not lobstering. If they don’t pay the fees while they are serving in the military they forfeit their license, and have to go to the bottom of the waiting list when they return. This bill would allow active duty service members to maintain their license while serving in the military without paying the fees, so they can return from service and resume their work as a lobstermen or other harvester.
Read more ›
According to a new AFL-CIO report, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 26 workers were killed in Maine in 2011 with a rate of 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, higher than the national rate of 3.5 deaths. Nationally, Maine ranks 30th among states with the lowest worker fatality rates, with 1 being the best and 50 being the worst. It also ranks higher for injuries and illnesses injured at work.
Due to lack of staffing it would take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 76 years to inspect each workplace in Maine once.
“Too many people are dying on the job right here in Maine and a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that no worker fears for his or her health and wellbeing on the job,” said Maine AFL-CIO President Don Berry. “Many workers are still unable to have a voice on the job and to advocate for better working conditions. A good job is not defined only by the absence of physical danger. Working people deserve respect, dignity, good wages, healthcare, and opportunities to grow and to give back to one’s community.”
Read more ›
The Capitol, Augusta, Maine. photo by Ramona du Houx
“The circuit breaker is the best program for reducing property taxes for Maine families who need it most,” said MECEP executive director Garrett Martin. “Most economists and tax policy experts share this view. Unfortunately, in recent years, reduced benefit levels and failure to streamline the application process and adequately publicize the circuit breaker’s benefits have undermined the program.”
The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) released a new report urging legislators to restore the 20 percent in refunds cut over the past four years to the Maine Residents Property Tax and Rent Refund Program, more commonly known as the circuit breaker program. Give Maine’s Working Families a Break: Fix and Fund the Circuit Breaker by MECEP economist Joel Johnson also calls for reforms to make it easier for eligible taxpayers to apply for refunds and for a public awareness campaign to encourage participation in the program.
Read more ›
Democratic lawmakers renewed their call for Gov. Paul LePage to release voter-approved bonds.
“It’s past time for the governor to release the bonds,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. “Stop the rhetoric, quit kidding around and making up these false excuses and let people work.”
The governor’s stubbornness and overreach of power has prevented the investment of $296 million in state and federal dollars into Maine’s economy. Maine voters approved these bipartisan bond packages in 2009, 2010 and 2012 after they passed in the Legislature by two-thirds votes.
The latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Maine a grade of C- for its overall infrastructure. The bonds the governor refuses to release include those that would address areas such as bridges, ports and waterways, roads and municipal wastewater, which earned grades of C-, C+, D and D+, respectively.
“Maine is losing out each day that the governor holds these bonds hostage,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe. “Construction season is here. These bonds need to be boosting our economy, getting Mainers to work and putting money in the pockets of our middle class.”
Read more ›
The Maine Legislature is reviewing a number of alternative energy bills and energy efficiency measures, Some of the bills would cut electricity usage with efficiency measures others would save funds using alternative energy sources.
LD 1426 – An Act To Improve Maine’s Economy and Lower Energy Costs through Energy Efficiency
This “Energy Efficiency Omnibus Bill” is a bipartisan response to Governor LePage’s energy bill. It seeks to continue RGGI funding for energy efficiency measures and maintain the independence of the Efficiency Maine Trust. It maintains a commitment to “cost-effective energy efficiency savings” but does not seek solely to deliver the lowest cost of energy possible. It maintains more ambitious goals for weatherization, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas reduction targets than that of the opposing bill.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, (RGGI), the east-coast’s cap and trade system for New England states has brought Maine over $63 million dollars. Those funds have been used for energy efficiency measures helping businesses and citizens throughout the state. The Governor’s bill wants to redirect some of these funds for natural gas initiatives. As it cost the state $5 million just to help lay the lines for natural gas to reach central Maine the funding from RGGI could be easily absorbed on natural gas infrastructure alone, as RGGI brings in an average of $1 million every six months.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine is one of the major proponents of this legislation, and has arguments detailing their position on their website at: http://www.nrcm.org/news_detail.asp?news=5334.
Read more ›