Entries Filed in 'Economy'
The Maine House and Senate have sent to Gov. Paul LePage for approval a $6.3 billion budget plan, and a measure to pay the state’s hospital debt.
Lawmakers sent a bill to renegotiating the state’s wholesale liquor contract to pay back about $184 million in Medicaid debt to hospitals. “As we make this final payment to make good on past debt to hospitals, we have also moved ahead with a bill that will reduce hospital debt and charity care in the future,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We must address both sides of this coin. To do one without the other, leaves the job half done.”
Accepting federal dollars would help contain future health care costs by reducing hospital charity care and bad debt, which totaled $450 million last year,according to the Maine Hospital Association.
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Mike Michaud works at requiring the military to buy Made In USA footwear in his office in D.C. The New Balance shoe was manufactured in Maine. New Balance, which can make footwear to comply with federal procurement rules, employs hundreds of Mainers in Norway, Norridgewock and Skowhegan.
On June 13th, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Michaud that would require any footwear provided to members of the Armed Forces upon initial entry be made in America. New Balance, which can make footwear to comply with federal procurement rules, employs hundreds of Mainers in Norway, Norridgewock and Skowhegan.
“I have been working for years to convince President Obama and the Defense Department to comply with the law for domestically sourced uniforms,” said Michaud, who sponsored the amendment that passed last night with Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts. “This amendment will guarantee that our troops fight and train in American-made uniforms from head to toe—something that most Mainers I talk to are surprised to hear isn’t the case right now. Passage of this amendment is good news and a significant step forward for footwear manufacturing in Maine and throughout the country.”
Under the Berry Amendment, the Department of Defense (DOD) cannot procure clothing items for servicemembers unless they are produced in the United States. This has been the standing policy since 1941. Since 2002, however, DOD has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for their own purchase of athletic training shoes. Two major domestic athletic footwear brands—New Balance and Wolverine World Wide—are already prepared to produce 100 percent Berry compliant athletic shoes for the military.
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The State Senate voted unanimously in a vote of 35 — 0 to approve a measure that makes the state’s final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and renegotiates the state’s liquor contract.
“We have done our job today and paid our bills. Now we must continue to work to make sure we never get back in this position again and we must all be committed to strengthening our healthcare system,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall. “It’s time to finish our work and addresses the true cost drivers in our healthcare system.”
This bill makes the final payment of $183.5 million to Maine hospitals triggering a federal match totaling $490 million in state and federal dollars. By paying the hospitals prior to October 1, 2013, the state will save $5 million. Over the last decade, Maine hospitals have been paid $3.7 billion in combined state and federal dollars to repay past debt and to maintain services.
The bill is different from Governor Paul LePage’s in two distinct ways. !. LePage wanted to issue a bond to build a new prison in his proposal as well as, 2. take over the liquor business that is currently leased out to a private company. The governor also threatened not to release voter approved bonds unless he got this bill passed.
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The VolturnUS offshore wind turbine in Castine Bay, Maine, started producing electricity to the grid on May 13, 2013. VolturnUS is the first offshore floating wind turbine in the Americas. It was designed and manufactured at the University of Maine.
“At 12:00pm on June 13, 2013, the first offshore wind electrons flowed into the US electricity grid,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, P.E., Director of the Advanced Structure and Composites Center at the University of Maine and leader of the DeepCwind Consortium. The grid received the electricity from the University of Maine’s patented offshore wind turbine, the VolturnUS, which is the first of its kind in the world.
The VolturnUS, was towed nearly 30 miles from the Cianbro facility, where it was assembled in Brewer, to Castine by Maine Maritime Academy professionals. The floating trimarine unit is now anchored off the coast of Castine, Maine in 80 ft of water.
The biggest test for VolturnUS so far happened while the unit was being towed to Castine. A storm brought 4- to 6-foot waves which is the equivalent of the full-size turbine, of over 600 feet, standing up to 32- to 48-foot waves.
“That’s a hurricane-type wave,” said Dagher. “This unit saw its equivalent, and while the trailing tugboat was swaying back and forth, it was barely moving.”
That stability is due to the VolturnUS unique tri-marine concrete/composite platform which took countless tests, calibrations and engineering puzzles to perfect.
Dr. Dagher was joined by Peter Vigue, President and CEO of the Cianbro Corporation, Jake Ward, UMaine Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development, and Dr. William J. Brennan, President of Maine Maritime Academy, off the coast of Castine, aboard an MMA vessel to watch history in the making as the turbine began sending electricity to Central Maine Power by way of an undersea cable. The vessel was anchored alongside the VolturnUS 1:8, a 65-foot-tall prototype floating turbine that is 1:8th the scale of a 6-megawatt (MW), 423-foot rotor diameter design.
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The Maine House on Wednesday, in a bipartisan vote of 97 to 51, passed a measure to accept Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding to expand healthcare coverage to nearly 70,000 low-income and working Mainers.Six Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill. Two Democratic members were absent.
“Today the Maine House put the health care of Maine people before party politics,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We worked together to find a compromise that will no doubt change the lives of Maine people; Maine people who are working and can’t afford health care, people who are choosing between paying for their medicine and putting food on the table.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the cost for covering all newly eligible people for the first three years, and then gradually lowers payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020. Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Maine is also one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over the next 10 years.
Just today The Maine Center for Economic Policy, (MECEP), released a new analysis showing the economic positive impact of accepting federal health care dollars for each of Maine’s 16 counties.
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The Maine State Capitol
The Maine Center for Economic Policy, (MECEP), released a new analysis showing the impact of accepting federal health care dollars for each of Maine’s 16 counties.
“We’ve known all along that the benefits from accepting federal dollars at the state level are significant,” said Garrett Martin, MECP executive director. “This new analysis provides insight on the impacts by county. Since health care and hospitals account for a large share of the economy in almost every county, leveraging federal funds to pay health care providers would bring tremendous benefits to local economies.”
MECEP generated county level impact analysis based on information contained in our report “Federal Health Care Funding Makes Dollars and Sense for Maine” released in January. This new analysis used IMPLAN, a data tool used by economic developers and researchers, to evaluate local economic impacts.
“Maine ranks last in New England and 46th in the nation in job creation since 2011,” said Martin. “We should be doing everything we can to put Maine people back to work. Accepting federal health care funds could help with this a lot. When health care providers get paid for the services they deliver, the money they receive ripples through the economy as they purchase other goods and services in their local community. This is one of the best opportunities to boost Maine’s economy we’ve seen in a long time. In fact, Maine is actually projected to save money over the next ten years by accepting these funds. It’s a win-win all around.”
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The Legislature passed a Joint Order that allows the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future committee to continue its work through the summer and the second regular session of the 126th Legislature. The workforce committee was established last January.
“The committee found common ground to benefit Maine’s workers, communities and economy. Our shared goal of investing in our prosperity inspired our bipartisan cooperation and hard work,” said Rep. Seth Berry.
Last month, the committee approved LD 90, An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, a first of its kind, omnibus piece of legislation that renews the partnership between government, education, workers and businesses and addresses the specific factors contributing to the skills gap.
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The Bangor City Council stands united against the recent budget compromise suggested by the Legislature as the measure will force property taxes to increase and positions to be cut, when all that needs to be done is to delay a tax cut for Maine’s wealthiest citizens for two years. These tax cuts passed in 2011 give those earning more than $350,000 per year a tax cut of almost $3,000, while middle income families will see a return of a little more than $100, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
On June 10, 2013 the Bangor City Council unanimously approved a Resolve that opposes the recent budget passed by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, and calls on the Legislature to reconsider the compromise.
The proposed budget as it stands could create the largest property tax increase statewide in the state’s history. Cost shifting from Augusta to municipalities would raise property taxes in order to keep services and force cuts to services.
The Maine Municipal Association estimated a loss, just for the City of Bangor, of over $1.1 million because of cost shifting that is still in place, all be it at a lesser degree than the original LePage budget proposal.
“Everybody who is concerned about these issues needs to call their legislator to let them know that money for revenue sharing to towns needs to be fully restored,” said Councilman Joe Baldacci. “And the money is there.”
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President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law 50 years ago today. But women are still grossly underpaid for doing the same jobs as men.
“Despite all the progress we’ve made, American women still face a fundamental inequality: for the same work, they make less than their male counterparts. A typical woman in this country makes only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that really adds up,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
Pingree is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which expands the Equal Pay Act and closes some loopholes in current law. Among other things the Paycheck Fairness Act makes it legal for workers to share salary information with one another and would require employers to prove that pay disparities are based on job performance and not gender.
“While progress has been made, more must be done. Women in every state still make thousands less than their male colleagues. In Maine, the disparity is over $9,000 each year,” said Congressman Mike Michaud.
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the gender gap in pay has closed by less than a half-cent per year. At that rate, it will take another 50 years for women to make as much as men.
“Over the course of her career, a typical workingwoman loses almost a quarter of a million dollars in wages, simply for being female. Unequal pay hurts working women, their families, our communities, and our economy,” said Pingree.
Lawmakers are expected to take up a bond package this week while the issue of Governor Paul LePage releasing $105 million in voter approved bonds has yet to be settled. Thousands of construction jobs, research projects and infrastructure needs have not happened because LePage has not issued bond funding the people of Maine voted for.
The Appropriations Committee will hear testimony Wednesday on new bond proposals. Among the proposals are bonds to improve transportation needs for highways and bridges and to buy classroom equipment for Maine’s community colleges.
LePage has said he will issue some of the bonds only after lawmakers pay Maine hospitals a $484 million debt for unpaid Medicaid services. Many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, have stated that this ransom demand has cost the state of Maine valuable jobs and lost revenues.