Author: Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the Editor-in-Chief of The Maine Wire. ‪He can be reached by email at Robinson@TheMaineWire.com.

WCSH political reporter Don Carrigan has an interesting interview with the infamous S. Donald Sussman, husband and benefactor of Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Sussman makes some dubious claims about Koch brothers donations, and takes a shot at GOP donor Ed Bosarge. No mention of Virgin Islands tax shelters though, or the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation of his financial activities. Click below to watch: Pingree has never revealed the details of Sussman’s financial activities, even though she claimed a family exemption when answering House Ethics charges about her use of Sussman’s $25 million private jet last fall. Sussman’s finances will…

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Analysis by Amanda Clark, The Maine Heritage Policy Center Between school consolidation and decreased funding, Maine’s educational system has been in a state of flux for the past few years. The passage in June of LD 1553, An Act To Create a Public Charter School Program in Maine, guarantees that things will remain interesting. Within the next 10 years, LD 1553 allows for the formation of up to ten charter schools approved by the State Charter School Commission and the establishment of an unlimited number of charter schools approved by local school boards. With the formation of charter schools comes…

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By Leif Parsell In an opinion piece published on the progressive blog “dirigoblue.com,” State Representative Timothy Driscol (D-Westbrook), compared Governor LePage’s proposed DHHS budget to government-run euthanasia. His comments have provoked contrasting responses from Democrat and Republican leadership in Augusta. “Rep. Tim Driscoll was not working off talking points developed by the House Democratic Office, but he was expressing what tens of thousands of Mainers are feeling in response to the governor’s harmful proposals,” said Jodi Quintero, the communications director for the Maine House Democrats.  “As an emergency room nurse, Rep. Driscoll has a frontline view of the lifesaving impact…

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The Maine Wire has obtained a copy of a letter sent today by  U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)  to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, asking for an investigation into the recently-reported failures of a Section 8 inspection program at an affordable housing complex in Norway. MSHA contracted Portland-based Avesta Housing for more than $600,000 to administer the program in four counties. Avesta is run by former MSHA deputy director Dana Totman. From the letter: “I am writing to request your assistance in investigating the property inspection and fire code enforcement practices for federally subsidized properties in Oxford…

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by Leif Parsell Maine State Housing Authority staffers continue to offer few answers to questions surrounding the handling of the Norway Apartment debacle that has dogged the agency in recent months. Those questions arose at the recent December MSHA board meeting and included an observation by board chair Peter Anastos that the deplorable conditions and the terrorizing of tenants in the subsidized housing units had come to light only because of the hardhitting coverage of a local newspaper. What also seems clear from the discussion is that even then, it was the actions of local officials — and not MSHA…

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by Scott Moody, Chief Economist, The Maine Heritage Policy Center Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released their first post-census population estimates by state. The goods news is that Maine avoided a third consecutive year of population decline, but barely. The bad news is that Maine’s population grew by only 809 people, which was the 47th slowest in the country. More ominously, the net natural increase (births minus deaths) accounted for only 180 people with 12,868 births versus 12,688 deaths. Maine keeps moving closer to the day when net natural increase moves into negative territory–a very bad sign for long-term…

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By Leif Parsell Facing structural shortfalls in the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Governor Paul LePage is seeking to cut $4 million from state funding to Head Start, a program that provides early childhood education and parental advice.  While primarily a Federal program, Maine is one of only sixteen states that provides supplementary funds to Head Start. Facing a two-year, $220 million shortfall in the DHHS budget, LePage has decided that the department must prioritize. With nearly 90% of Head Start funding ensured, and several studies challenging the effectiveness of the program, the necessity of…

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Not surprisingly, the Maine press this week rushed to deliver the news of a supposed 4,400 jobs that would be lost if Governor LePage’s DHHS budget cuts are approved. The jobs number comes from a cornerstone member of the left-wing political activism group Maine Can Do Better, run by Democrat operatives David Farmer and Ben Dudley. That the press would accept these numbers from a partisan organization without independent verification is problematic enough, but even worse is their inability to apply some basic common sense to the report. Here’s the key question: if cutting $120 million from the DHHS budget…

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by Frank Heller Dam removal advocates always make the assumption that sea run fish will once again return to the water way, replacing the aquatic habitat lost when the dam pond is lost. Unfortunately, they don’t document their assumption to the satisfaction of skeptics who have seen dams removed and little if any sea-run fish return. Whether fishing groups in Connecticut, marine biologists at Orono, or a recently closed fishing tackle shop on the shores of the Kennebec in Bath, there are serious doubts being expressed. Sure some may come back, but not enough to justify taking down the dam.…

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By Leif Parsell This week Maine legislative leaders Representatives Andre Cushing (R-Hampden) and Emily Cain (D-Orono) both declared their candidacy for Maine state senate seats. Cushing, the current House majority whip, will run in the Republican primary for Senate district 33, which includes the towns in Penobscot County of Hampden, Newburgh, Dixmont, Carmel, Etna, Plymouth, Glenburn, Kenduskeag, Levant, Stetson, Newport, Corinth, Exeter, Corinna, Charleston, Garland, and Dexter.  He has served in Augusta since 2009 and will be opposed by former representative Brian Duprey of Hampden in the primary.  Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, who defeated Democrat Sherman Leighton in 2010 69% to…

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By Leif Parsell Rallies in Augusta this week organized by an alliance of Progressive organizations and so-called Patient Advocacy Groups (PAGS) to push back against the Governor’s supplemental Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget have raised the specter of a serious conflict of interest.  Some in Maine have begun to raise the question: do organizations who receive state money, some of whom are even instrumentalities of the state, have a conflict of interest in lobbying against funding cuts? A consortium of non-profit liberal advocacy groups, under the banner of the organization Maine Can Do Better (MCDB), has mobilized…

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Rallied by a variety of Patient Advocacy Groups, hundreds of protestors converged on the capital building in Augusta on Wednesday, December 14th to express their dissatisfaction with the Governor’s proposed Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) supplemental budget.  The budget, which was proposed last week, aims to cut $220 million dollars over two years from state health insurance and care spending, in order to address long-standing structural deficits in the department. Speaking before the Appropriations and Financial Services committee (AFS) on December 13th, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and her staff explained in detail the nature of the shortfalls, and the…

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by Leif Parsell To begin a contentious week of hearings on the shortfall and proposed fixes in the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Fiscal and Program Review (OFPR) analyst Christopher Nolan and DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and her staff gave more than six hours of testimony on Tuesday, December 13th concerning the departments’ structural deficits.  Facing tough questions regarding the shortfall from the representatives of the Appropriations and Financial Services Committee, Mayhew defended the in-depth analysis that her staff, in conjunction with Deloitte Consulting and OFPR, has been doing for the past few months.…

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Maine House Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R-Hampden) announced yesterday that he will seek election to the state senate for District 33, which will be vacated next year by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Debra Plowman (R-Hampden), who is term-limited out. Cushing sent the following release yesterday: ANDRE CUSHING ANNOUNCES HIS CANDIDACY FOR STATE SENATE Assistant Majority Leader to run for open District 33 State Senate seat HAMPDEN- Representative Andre Cushing announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination to the Maine State Senate in District 33, to represent the 16 Penobscot County towns of; Carmel, Charleston, Corinth, Corrina, Dexter, Dixmont, Etna,…

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Maine State Housing Authority Director Dale McCormick recently appeared in this promotional video, funded by three natural gas corporations from Pennsylvania,and claimed that a decrease in federal fuel and weatherization subsidies will cause Maine people to die.

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by Leif Parsell The election for Maine’s 138th House District may begin earlier than expected, as speculation swirls around the fate of current Representative David Burns (R-Alfred), found guilty by the Ethics Commission last week of campaign finance violations. Burns also finds himself as Exhibit A in the debate over Maine’s publicly-funded campaign system. Burns, serving his first term as a state representative, faces re-election in November 2012, but the ethics violations and a possible criminal investigation have led to speculation that he may be forced to resign. Though further publicity over the matter is likely the last thing Republicans…

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The Second Session of Maine’s 125th Legislature convenes in January, and we’ve got a rundown of the bills on tap for consideration. Bills Carried Over from First Session: Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry LD: 362 – Resolve, Directing the Department of Conservation To Acquire    an Easement To Provide Access to the Dead River.  McCabe LD: 1109 – Resolve, To Target Job Creation in the Agricultural Sector To  Improve the Stability and Economic Strength of Rural Maine. McCabe LD: 1120 – An Act To Move the Land for Maine’s Future Program to the  Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources. Moulton Appropriations…

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Dale McCormick resorted to quoting Bob Dylan.

Though it may not have provided the answer sought, it did provide a curious and somewhat entertaining moment in one of McCormickʼs first official interactions with new state officials attempting to untangle the bureaucratic quagmire at the Maine State Housing Authority, of which McCormick is director.

And it may have set the tone for interactions between McCormick and MSHA board members newly appointed by newly elected Governor Paul LePage.

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The Maine Heritage Policy Center, the parent organization of this website, released the following information regarding Maine State Housing Authority payroll trends: Data shows 30% increase in total payroll cost in just five years Today, MaineOpenGov.org has been updated and expanded to show five years of salary and benefits data for employees of the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA). The data from Maine Housing was provided in response to a Freedom of Access Act request made by The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC). The data shows that in the past five calendar years (2005 – 2010) total payroll and benefits…

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