For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Residents of Rep. Beth O'Connor's district overwhelmingly think lawmakers should focus more on cutting taxes and regulations than on preserving public benefits. Additionally, three out of four respondents to a recent survey rejected transferring money from other programs to fill chronic shortfalls at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Overall, residents rated tax cuts and welfare reform as the two most important achievements of the 125th Legislature.
Those are a few results of a survey mailed to residents of District 145, which includes Berwick and part of Lebanon.
"This was not a scientific study, but the underlying tone of the answers shows that folks in this area are pleased with the Legislature's accomplishments," said Rep. O'Connor (R-Berwick). "My thanks to all those who took the time to fill out the questionnaire, as their feedback is very important.
"I was surprised to see that 81 percent think it is more important for the Legislature to cut taxes and regulations than to preserve public benefits," she added. "More and more people are figuring out that lower taxes create jobs and business activity, and that is the best way to break Maine's cycle of welfare and dependency. As the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats."
Rep. O'Connor serves on the Health and Human Services Committee, and several questions dealt with MaineCare, the state's name for Medicaid. Since 2002, MaineCare enrollment has increased dramatically, to about 317,000 people, while the state's population grew only 7 percent. The number of Maine residents receiving taxpayer-funded health care is 35 percent above the national average, and the cost per capita is 60 percent higher than the national norm.
By 76 percent to 24 percent, survey respondents said MaineCare benefits should be realigned to the national average by eliminating optional services. Three out of four people said MaineCare has reached a level where it cannot be sustained.
"We have been cannibalizing the rest of the government to keep feeding the welfare budget. This simply can't continue," Rep. O'Connor said.
When asked which issue is most important to them, 39 percent of respondents checked off welfare reform, followed by economic deregulation, with 30.5 percent. Health insurance reform ranked third, at 13 percent, trailed by environmental issues (10.5 percent) and education (4 percent). Workers' rights took fifth place, with 3 percent.
On another issue, 72 percent favor repeal of a law whereby child support obligations of a noncustodial parent are automatically suspended while that parent is on public assistance. The Legislature dealt with this situation by passing LD 1650. The new law allows DHHS to intercept any tax refunds, lottery winnings and other lump sum awards while the parent is on welfare. The money would be applied to prior child support debts. Previous law prohibited such collections.
By 65 percent to 35 percent, respondents said they supported a bill, LD 1685, that would conform Maine law to federal law as it pertains to payment of overtime to truck drivers and drivers' helpers. That bill, sponsored by Rep. O'Connor, has passed the House and awaits enactment in the Senate. It is expected to be on the governor's desk for signing after the Legislature adjourns. ###
Maine House Republicans
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