Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Observation on candidate forum

On September 5th there was a candidate forum in Farmington. I would like to make two observations/comments based on what was said.

First, candidate Jan Collins criticized Representative Russell Black, saying he voted against educational funding. I am sure she was talking about LD 390, the biennial budget bill last year.  Rep. Black voted against passage initially because the bill would have increased the lodging tax from 9% to 10.5%, with funds going directly into the General Fund. Another words, this was a tax increase for the sake of a tax increase. None of this money was earmarked for education funding.

Ultimately, after extensive negotiations, Rep. Black provided an instrumental vote in favor of the final version of the bill that made a historic investment of $162 million to directly support students in the classroom and offset property taxes in many rural school districts, without increasing taxes by a dime on hardworking Mainers.

RSU 9 (Mt. Blue) alone benefitted from a funding increase of just over $1.6 million this school year over the 2016 school year.

Again this year, Russell voted in favor of additional education funding for career and technical education centers. This funding, which is critical to facilities around the state like Foster Career and Technical Education Center, will help more students learn skills in trades that are in high demand around our state.

Finally, candidate Jan Collins was one of two candidates at the forum to come out in support of the upcoming universal home care referendum, which I refer to as the universal waitlist referendum. This referendum is both extreme and dangerous for Maine’s economy, which is why all four candidates for governor oppose Question 1.

While it claims to pay for "in-home and community support services to individuals and families," this referendum would actually set up a giant shadow-government board with a giant budget and no oversight by the legislature and no accountability to the very taxpayers who fund it.

Because of the fact that there would be no residency requirement and financial status/ ability to pay for services would not be taken into account, the demand for services would greatly surpass our capacity to provide them. The drafters of this misguided are fully aware of this fact, which is why they have included waitlists as part of the proposal. The last thing we need is more waitlists for our elderly and citizens with disabilities that genuinely need services to languish on yet another waitlist.

Further, if Question 1 passes, it will be largest income tax increase in the history of Maine. It will create a 10.95% per household income tax bracket, giving Maine the distinction of having the highest tax rate in the country. It will hit Maine’s self-employed and small business owners especially hard and make it more difficult for small, family-owned businesses to survive. As you can see, it would be nothing short of economic suicide.

But most importantly it would be unconstitutional, violating the Maine Constitution, the U.S. Constitution and federal privacy laws. A virtually identical scheme in Illinois has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, making the proposal an utter waste of taxpayer dollars.

As an elected official, one is required to abide by our constitution and our laws, so Ms. Collins should reconsider her support of this dangerous referendum.

It is very easy to criticize someone in office with catchy sound bites and misinformation - I know all too well. Russell has done a lot to help our area and will continue to do so when elected to the Maine Senate.

Tom Saviello

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7 Responses »

  1. @ Tom - Your defense of your fellow Republican and personal friend is all well and good. You've got Russell's back. We get it. When you were a Dem, you had Dems' backs, when you were an Independent, I suppose you had Independents' backs. Whichever way the wind blows, I guess.

    But my bigger concerns are why Russell Black was AWOL during two years of the most divisive, contentious issue to hit his constituency -- the RSU 9 school budget. I attended every public meeting at MBHS and did not see him once -- and I looked for him. (I saw you, Tom. So good on you for that.) Not once did I see Russell Black comment publicly in the Daily Bulldog, or other news outlets. Not once did he come to the microphone to tell his constituents where he stood on the RSU 9 budget or to defend why the state would not fund at the level it was supposed to have -- for two consecutive years. He sat on the sideline, silent.

    My second concern is Russell Black's strong alignment and active campaigning for Bruce Poliquin and Paul LePage. Black's support of those two comes with consequences -- remember, not everyone in his district is a Poliquin / LePage supporter and hopefully those who oppose both Poliquin and LePage will also oppose Russell Black.

    I won't be voting for Russell Black for those reasons. It's about the consequences of one's actions and inaction.

  2. Stan Jonathan, it's highly likely that you would not vote for a Republican for any reason whatsoever. But with that aside, you have tried to concoct a big issue concerning Mr. Black regarding something that is in actuality a complete non-issue. The current RSU9 budget is funded only 38% by local taxpayers. That means the State of Maine is funding RSU9 to a level that is higher than the 55% which is required by state law. I assume that state levels of funding for RSU9 have been similar to the current level for years. Regarding your accusation, Mr. Black had nothing to defend.

  3. @Stan Jonathan: Thank you for your well-reasoned and articulate statement.

  4. Stan has a point that is not missed by my community. Since recent political mailers and door to door campaigns have started I find myself stuck with Mr. Saviello's propaganda which seems to claim he did all these great things at a state level that other politicians are also claiming they did. What I find particularly interesting is that there are several plug in tags that attach R. Black but with no substance and yet, Mr. Black never makes statements and what he does is not known. I've been searching for ways Black has done right by his constituents the last few years but all I find are articles that seems to help advertise the Blacks sugar shack, their landscaping and marijuana business, and the sweetheart tannery and property deal for one dollar... I've asked others how Black has helped Wilton area but never heard a word from Mr. Black or story about what he's really done for his constituents?

    Tom, I've always voted for you because I see past political parties and vote for those I believe work for us but seriously, the only time I hear or see the name Black is on a truck at the FCC with a house license plates and in articles that mention he was hired to do a pig roast. By the way, does he work at the FC courthouse? How do the rules of using vehicles that brandish the House or Rep license plate work?

    Anyway, good luck and keep on doing good work.

  5. @ The Fool - Your assumption about how I vote could not be more wrong. I am a longtime Republican but left the party during the Charlie Webster shenanigans as chair of the Maine GOP and I have not yet voted for a Dem. This year will be different for me. So where was Russell Black during the most divisive issue to face his district? He certainly wasn't at two years of contentious school budget hearings to listen to and talk with his constituents.

    @ Sam - I too, have no idea what Russell Black has done for us. I only see him at the Blueberry Festival parade riding in a truck supporting other Republican candidates, and when he stands at the Wilton polls entrance on election day. I only know about what he has done for his family's businesses and his support of Bruce Poliquin

  6. Stan - mea culpa for assuming to know your political history. I guess I have been heavily influenced by the fact that I can't ever recall a comment from you that wasn't from a liberal angle. Knowing now your history, I would assume that you must be a big fan of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (but then again, maybe I'm wrong on that assumption, too).

  7. Has Charlie ever tracked down those "phantom"voters?