Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New Year, The Same Old Governor

While we would normally look to the start of a new year with the hope that better times lie ahead, unfortunately Paul LePage remains our governor, so we the citizens of Maine have learned to expect nothing but more of the same.
In what was likely a foreshadowing of things to come, a memorial service was held in front of the Christmas tree in Monument Square on December 21st to acknowledge and offer respect to the 43 homeless people who died in Portland this past year. Yet as the number of these deaths continues to climb, LePage and his notorious aide-de-camp Mary Mayhew (director of Maine’s Dept. of Health and Human Services) offer little in the way of compassion. Instead, they made it clear this past year that they were intent on cutting state funding to the city’s homeless shelters. To quote Randy Newman, “human kindness is overflowing”. LePage and Mayhew would undoubtedly point to Maine’s heroin epidemic as a factor in the number of deaths, and there is likely some correlation. But the LePage “solution” to this problem focuses exclusively on hiring more law enforcement, and on whatever “remedies” are engineered by prosecutors and judges. It should be noted that in 2013 LePage vetoed a bill to make Narcan—a potentially life-saving drug for overdose victims—more widely available, claiming it provided “an excuse to stay addicted”. Furthermore, the LePage administration has done nothing but observe from the sidelines as several drug addiction treatment centers have been forced to close their doors; as the state opted not to pursue a pool of $3 million in federal aid available to states to improve services and increase medication-assisted treatment. God forbid the state should seek federal aid, even in times of crisis!
This anti-federal government posturing is made even clearer when we hear LePage promise to veto a proposal by two courageous Republican State Senators, Tom Saviello and Roger Katz, who are seeking to expand Maine’s Medicaid eligibility. They’re hoping to gain access to federal funding that could be put to good use in Maine’s battle against the out-of-control heroin epidemic. Of course, what Saviello and Katz are actually perceived as supporting by LePage (and like-minded fanatics) is an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, more ominously known as “Obamacare”. Never mind the fact that by expanding Medicaid as allowed by the AFC some 60,000 additional people could be added to the state’s Medicaid rolls. Translation: they’d gain access to health insurance. However, these are not the sort of people LePage or Mayhew are interested in serving. Their opposition to raising Maine’s preposterously low minimum wage ($7.50) to anything even approaching a livable wage, along with recent revelations regarding the mismanagement of Maine’s Food Stamp program (Maine’s SNAP program is the most poorly administered in the nation, ranking dead last) and service delays that effectively punish those in need of food assistance makes their priorities all too clear.
It’s a new year, but we’re unfortunately stuck with the same old Governor.
Postscript: It's apparently going to be a very long long year as well. As I finished this post I discovered the Governor had once again embarrassed himself--and the state--with a racist comment. The man truly has no shame.

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