April 08, 2020

How to spread Maine’s wealth

Money’s been so tight around the State House for so long, most Maine lawmakers have almost forgotten how to spend it.

So it should come as no big surprise to taxpayers that the Legislature’s Second Regular Session will be turbo-charged by the expected arrival of huge gobs of cash. The precise amount of surplus revenues is anybody’s guess, but forecasters last week were anticipating something in excess of $200 million.

Via radio talk shows, e-mail, regional meetings and door-to-door head tallies, independent Gov. Angus S. King and lawmakers from both parties have been exploring the best way to spread the wealth around in the form of tax relief.

Instead of running all over “The Great State” conducting focus groups and taking the collective pulse of their constituents, State House policy makers could have gotten a lot of good ideas from an agency accustomed to dealing with millionaires: The Maine State Lottery Commission.

The commission hands out a little maroon booklet to every new winner to ease the anxiety that can accompany unanticipated riches. Actual chapters include: “What about taxes?” “Where should I invest my money?” “Do I need a lawyer?” and “How do I handle news media requests?”

These are all clearly questions that King, House Speaker Libby Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, and Senate President Mark Lawrence, D-Kittery, will consider throughout the next three months.

In fact, state government might do well to avoid what the commission refers to as “the most common mistakes” made by lottery winners such as:

Not having proper financial advice.

Tying up too much money.

Too much debt.

Too many eggs in one basket.

The most apropos section of the booklet, however, deals with requests for money, not unlike the funding demands made by all of the members of King’s Cabinet or special interest groups lobbying the Legislature.

“You will immediately begin to get advice from every source imaginable — and most of it should be ignored,” the pamphlet cites. “You will hear from long-lost friends, distant relatives and people you don’t even know. Perfect strangers, not to mention close friends and relatives, will ask you for money. It is important that you take a firm position during this stressful time.”

Those warnings are good suggestions for any Megabucks winner, not to mention the Legislature.

WGOP in Bangor

It’s not Regis & Kathy or even Laurel & Hardy, but if you’re looking for a radio talk show featuring a Maine legislator as a host, Fish & Plowman is your only option.

The two-hour, call-in show made its debut on Dec. 6 on WVOM, 103.9 FM, in Bangor with a 2-4 p.m. Saturday time slot. Featuring Scott K. Fish of Dixmont, a legislative aide in the House Republican Office, and Rep. Debra D. Plowman, R-Hampden, the show has what Plowman likes to describe as “a conservative lean.” Rather than hammer away at liberal targets, the show seeks to inform while offering a Maine Republican perspective to issues ranging from punishment of sex offenders to proposing tax relief solutions.

Wheel of Fortune

Last November, the Passamaquoddy Indians were happy that Gov. Angus King had decided to stay out of the Land Use Regulation Commission’s deliberations leading to the approval of the tribe’s high-stakes bingo parlor in Albany Township.

But now that that the tribe has acknowledged there was interest by the parlor’s developer to construct a casino in Albany at some future point in time, King won’t be sitting on the sidelines. A bill will be heard by the Judiciary Committee in weeks ahead allowing the tribe to redesignate as Indian trust land 50 acres of property it owns adjacent to the bingo parlor site.

The governor doesn’t understand why the tribe needs more land to expand a bingo parlor it hasn’t even constructed yet. His position on casinos, he says, is unalterable.

“I’m against them,” King said. “And the appearance of a relationship between the tribe and the developer concerning the possibility of a casino in the future is disturbing. I’ll be taking a real hard look at that bill.”

A. Jay Higgins is the NEWS political editor. He can be reached at State House Station 50, Augusta 04333 or e-mailed at bdnmail@bangornews.infi.net

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