Entries Filed in 'Economy'

LePage’s veto spree hurts people, the environment, education, jobs and Maine’s quality of life

April 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Economy, Issue 40

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The most widely known veto of Governor Paul LePage’s was when he decided not to accept any Affordable Care Act funding from the federal government for Medicare. The state would have had free funding for three years and 70,000 people would be covered with healthcare insurance. Instead those people are at risk and Maine’s hospital debt is rising once again.

Another problem with LePage’s veto of healthcare for over 70,000 people in Maine is that by doing so he will incur greater costs to the state. The reimbursement from the federal government of 3 to 1 in Medicare dollars has been going to Maine’s hospitals to repay the debt the state owes them. Without that funding that debt, which LePage was so critical of last year, will again begin to rise.

“Medicare reimbursement matching funds went to the hospitals with the system known as “Pay as You Go,” to pay our debt that had accrued over decades. Without federal funding the state’s debt to the hospitals will begin to go up again,” said former Gov. John Bladacci. “The more tragic reality about not accepting the ACA funding is that people will not have sufficient access to healthcare which could save their lives. Healthcare is a right not a privilege.”

Maine hospitals, which have backed the Affordable Care Act federal funding, are expected to lose $730 million in Medicare reimbursements by 2022.

LePage also vetoed a measure that would have reinstated solar rebates and started a thermal heat pump incentive. These are two measures that would have spurred Maine’s innovation economy and helped combat oil bills with renewable energy.

This apparent anti-business governor’s veto spree didn’t end there.

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Maine lawmakers pass $50 million job bond plan

April 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Economy, Issue 40

The Legislature on Thursday passed a $50 million bond plan to boost job creation by small businesses and invest in key sectors of the state’s economy and clean water infrastructure.

“Democrats and Republicans came together to make critical investments in our economy,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “This is a positive step towards boosting jobs by building on the best of Maine.”

The plan is made up of six separate measures. Each received two-thirds approval in both chambers of the Legislature on Thursday.

The largest of the six proposals would invest $12 million to recapitalize the Regional Economic Development Loan Program and the Commercial Loan Insurance Programs — proven financing programs that help promising small business on the cusp of job creation access capital.

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Lawmakers tell DEP to strengthen mining rules, protect waters and taxpayers

April 17th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Economy, Environment, Issue 40

Western Mountains of Maine photo by Ramona du Hoxu

Western Mountains of Maine photo by Ramona du Hoxu

The Legislature voted to reject inadequate proposed mining rules and gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that directs the Department of Environmental Protection to draft rules that will protect Maine’s environment and taxpayers.

The Senate voted unanimously on a resolve, which requires new rules to be rewritten and submitted to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2016. It now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.

“We must make sure we protect the waters of Maine. If we are to have mining in Maine, we must make sure it protects our groundwater, lakes and other waterways. If we are to have mining in Maine, we must make sure that taxpayers are not saddled with clean-up costs as they have been in the past,” said Rep. Joan Welsh, the House chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee.

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Belfast, Maine water district receives $1.9 million to reconstruct Front Street

April 10th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Economy, News from Washington

The Front Street Shipyard in Belfast Maine will be adding new jobs because of a federal grant. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The Front Street Shipyard in Belfast Maine will be adding new jobs because of a federal grant. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has announced that the City of Belfast and the Belfast Water District have been awarded a grant in the amount of 1.9 million dollars through its Public Works program. These funds will be used for the reconstruction and enhancement of a significant section of Front Street in Belfast, with the intent to facilitate economic growth in this area of Belfast’s working waterfront.

“This is terrific news, and a great opportunity for the City of Belfast to assist its existing waterfront businesses,” said Walter Ash, Belfast’s Mayor.

In particular, the project will make more efficient the operations of two of Belfast’s largest employers, Front Street Shipyard – a premier shipyard, and Penobscot McCrum – one of North America’s largest suppliers of value-added potato products.

“At Front Street Shipyard we are continuously grateful for the remarkable support for our growing business from the local level all the way to the federal level. This grant will enhance not only our waterfront and our city, but also our prospects for future growth as an entire community,” said JB Turner, President of Front Street Shipyard.

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If Wal-Mart raised prices by just one penny workers could get off food stamps

April 10th, 2014 · No Comments · Economy

Tax payers subsidize Wal-Mart by making sure workers have enough to eat. Wal-Mart’s wages are so low they workers are forced to use food stamps but this new study shows this need not be the case. For just a penny increase on a product the company would be able to afford to give their employees livable wages.


Small business owners urge Maine’s Gov. LePage not to veto solar energy bill

April 9th, 2014 · 4 Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Economy, Energy Issues, Maine's green energy potential

Solar panels on top of the G.O Logic home in Belfast installed by ReVision, Maine.

Solar panels on top of the G.O Logic home in Belfast.

Small businesses gathered in Augusta, Maine to urge Governor LePage to allow a solar bill to become law, now that it has passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. Over 20 small businesses signed a letter to the Governor saying that the bill would allow more small businesses to invest in money-saving solar energy and support more good paying, clean energy jobs. LD 1252 would reinstate the solar energy program at Efficiency Maine, which provides rebates to homeowners and businesses to help lower the up-front cost of rooftop solar energy arrays.

“Duratherm has utilized this program in the past to help fund the installation of our solar wall at our Vasslaboro facility about three years ago,” said Tim Downing, President of Duratherm Windows. “The result of this installation has been a 35 percent reduction in the amount of LP gas used at our facility. Not only has the solar system reduced our fuel usage, but it has also increased the number of hours per day our finish room can be used in the coldest days of winter. Energy efficiency and renewable energy investments at our facility have enabled us to eliminate our use of #2 oil (previously 21,000 gallons/year.)”

Last year the Baldacci administration’s solar program ran out of funds, leaving Maine the only New England state with no policies specifically to help people invest in solar on their homes and businesses, and leaving hundreds of Maine solar jobs in jeopardy. LD 1252 was enacted by the Legislature by strong votes in each body (House 109-30, Senate 22-12). It would provide one million dollars per year for 2.5 years for the program.

“This solar program helped hundreds of Maine home- and business owners invest in solar energy, and it was a key part of growing the solar industry in Maine—from Portland to areas like Pittsfield and Newport,” said Vaughan Woodruff, Owner of Insource Renewables in Pittsfield. “Now is not the time to abandon that progress.”

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Mike Michaud’s economic plan for Maine

April 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Economy

Maine Made


President issues executive order prohibiting retaliation against employees of federal contractors who discuss salary

April 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Economy, Issue 40, News from Washington

“When women succeed, America succeeds,” said President Obama at a executive order singing event for equal pay at the White House. Women compose nearly half of the American workforce – yet, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.

On Equal Pay Day, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree welcomed the executive order by President Obama that bans retaliation against employees of federal contractors who discuss their salaries. Pingree and female colleagues in the House had written to Obama in January urging him to issue such an order.

One of the first bills that Pingree voted for in Congress—and the first that President Obama signed—was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law makes it easier for women to recover lost wages to discrimination. At the executive order bill singing Ledbetter said many women still don’t know that discrimination is happening. Ledbetter only found out about the discrepancy in her pay when co-worker sent her a note saying she was getting paid less. After that Ledbetter went to court and it was disclosed that a man in her same job had earned over 200,000 more than she did during the same time period. But the court also said she was too late filing the lawsuit against her employer. That provision is gone due to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

“Despite the strides we’ve made in recent years, women continue to earn 21 percent less than their male counterparts for doing the same work in Maine,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “I was proud to pass legislation in Maine more than a decade ago instituting Equal Pay Day. We’re reminded today that more still needs to be done to ensure women are receiving equal pay as men. It’s unbelievable that women who do the same jobs as men stand to make substantially less money – just because of their gender. Both women and men serve as breadwinners for families, and both women and men face the same financial obligations and challenges. It’s time for us to take action that corrects this inequity once and for all.”

Michaud is running for Maine Governor against Gov. Paul LePage and Independent Elliot Cutlar.

“Wage discrimination is still a problem in the workplace but many women may not even know they are making less than their male counterparts. Nearly half of all workers in the country are either prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay,” said Pingree. “If you don’t know you are being discriminated against, it’s impossible to do something about it.”

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Report: Maine’s employment recovery from the Great Recession continues to lag behind other States

April 1st, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Economy

“I used to have a good manufacturing job,” said Paul Nickerson from Gray, a 35 year old father of two with another on the way. “In 2008, when the economy crashed, the company I worked for went out of business. I’m looking for a job again and there’s nothing available where we live, certainly not paying enough to support my family, much less save for the future, so we’ll probably have to move to the city to find work.”

The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) today released a new report, Maine’s Labor Market Recovery: Far from Complete, that finds nearly five years after the end of The Great Recession, Maine’s recovery continues to lag behind other states.

“Since January 2011, Maine ranks consistently near the bottom in total job growth and job growth in both the private and public sectors,” said Garrett Martin, MECEP executive director and one of the report’s authors. “Maine ranks 49th in total job growth and 42nd in private-sector job growth among the 50 states and District of Columbia since January 2011.”

The MECEP report, co-authored by economist Joel Johnson, involved in-depth research and analysis of U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Maine from January 2011 through March 2014.

“Maine’s declining unemployment is a positive sign but masks growing disparities,” said Johnson. “So far, Maine’s recovery has occurred almost entirely in the Portland, Bangor, and Lewiston metropolitan areas which account for less than half the population of Maine but 83 percent of the job growth since the end of the recession. Among states where unemployment is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, Maine’s disparity is one of the largest in the nation.”

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Congressman Michaud makes a strong case to close the wage gap

April 1st, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Community Maine, Economy, Woman's rights

Congressman Michaud defending American Veteran's rights in Washington, D.C.

Congressman Michaud defending American Veteran’s rights in Washington, D.C.(courtesy photo)

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is calling for a renewed commitment to close the wage gap.

“Despite the strides we’ve made in recent years, women continue to earn 21 percent less than their male counterparts for doing the same work in Maine,” said Michaud. “That pay gap could make a big difference in the lives of many women and families. It could mean the difference between their children having shoes and clothes that fit, having enough money to buy groceries and heat their homes and having more time to help their kids with their homework.”

Maine commemorates Equal Pay Day the first Tuesday of April as part of legislation Michaud introduced and passed as Senate President in 2001. The legislation also called for the Department of Labor to release a report annually on Equal Pay Day to the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee about the progress the state has made toward ensuring equal pay.

“While the wage gap is a national issue, there are concrete and common-sense things we can do in Maine to make our state a national leader in fair pay, but we need a governor who is willing to take action. Gov. LePage is moving us backwards,” said the Congressman. “I’ve outlined a detailed plan for how we can close the wage gap in Maine, and if elected governor, I am committed to bringing people together to put that plan into action.”

President Barack Obama’s commitment about leveling the playing field for women received a standing ovation during his State of the Union address. The visible bipartisan commitment was unusual as most Republicans were not in agreement with the President on the majority of topics. Michaud has supported Obama and stood up to him on various issues. Michaud is known for working across party lines and would be able to work with the President if elected as governor.

Michaud is a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to further protect against sex-based pay discrimination, and the Healthy Families Act.

When elected, Michaud said that he would work to:

  • Increase the minimum wage: According to the National Women’s Law Center, raising the minimum wage will help to close the pay gap because two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature in 2013 that would have raised the minimum wage to $9 an hour over three years.
  • Increase access to quality, affordable childcare, early childhood and pre-K education, including support for effective programs such as Head Start. In addition to being good for children and future workforce development, access to affordable, quality early childhood education is critical as women with children enter or re-enter the workforce. LePage vetoed a bill last month that would support early childhood education by developing a long-term plan for early childhood education in Maine.
  • Support paid sick days and better family leave policies. A study from Rutgers found that women who use paid leave are far more likely to be working nine to 12 months after a child’s birth than those who do not take any leave. The study also found that these women report increases in wages from pre- to post-birth.
  • Strengthening anti-poverty and education programs, which stabilize families in crisis and provide them with the education and skills to re-enter the workforce and earn a living wage. As part of his business and investment plan, Maine Made, Michaud has proposed making the Maine Earned Income Tax Credit refundable; revitalizing and improving the Governor’s Training Initiative, a public-private partnership that helps workers gain new skills and credentials; and making higher education at the state’s colleges and universities more affordable.
  • Ensure state government practices what it preaches by guaranteeing fair pay for women who work in the public sector or for government contractors.
  • In addition, Michaud said that building a strong, diverse economy is also critical to closing the wage gap.

Michaud has been a strong supporter of equal pay throughout his career. In addition to the work he did in the Legislature, Michaud was also a strong supporter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in Congress. The first law signed by President Obama , protects workers from unlawful pay discrimination.

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