Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Politics or Rule for using that money

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who wear the green. I hope you have a fun time on this day and maintain a safe celebration.

I had a great surprise when I got home from my senior fitness session today. Wife Gator had some super cinnebon muffins waiting for me. There’s nothing quite like spending an hour or so in strenuous exercise and then getting a nice cinnebon muffin.

Speaking of exercise, it went well today. My Fearless Friend gave me a little lecture the other day on not paying attention to the young bucks who are now there and just concentrate on doing the things I need to do. I did that today and must admit it made the whole experience just a little better. I still haven’t gotten the OK to lift things above my head from my doctor. I’m “patiently” waiting for an appointment to have my implanted device checked to be sure it’s all right to resume full normal activities.

We’re now in week seven since the operation and I was told I’d get that check sometime between week six and week eight.

You’ve read here about one of my fellow seniors who travels to Montreal during the winter to see his beloved Canadiens play hockey. Today he proudly showed off a special Loony that was minted in Canada just to honor the team. It was a limited edition of the dollar-equivalent coin which the hockey team gave to everyone in attendance a few nights ago, one day ahead of its national release. I got the impression that coin is worth a lot more than a dollar to him.

An interesting development in South Carolina yesterday could have a bearing on events in Maine, but the SC event may have been simple politics. A request by the SC Republican governor to use some of the federal ‘stimulus’ money to pay down the state’s debt was denied by federal officials. They told the SC governor that debt paying was not included in the ways the money could be spent.

The political part is two-fold. First the governor was the first Republican governor to turn down at least some of the money and he had a face-to-face confrontation with then President-elect Obama in December over the spending plan. And now the SC Democrats are waging an advertising campaign against the governor over the spending package.

The question becomes simple. Was the refusal to allow spending down the debt a payback for the governor’s confrontation with the President? The governor said he thanked the President for the explanation and will present a more detailed plan for paying off the debt today. He then said that for the parties to work together, the Democrats should stop their advertising campaign.
That brings us to Maine. Governor Baldacci wants to use some of the stimulus money to pay off a huge debt owed to Maine’s hospitals, other health facilities, and doctors. One might also gather that he wants to use some of the money to pay off the huge deficit created by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Gov. Baldacci is a Democrat.

We’ll have to wait to see if President Obama is consistent or not. I would think consistency would dictate his telling Maine they also cannot use the federal money to pay down debts. Of course one situation is Republican and the other is Democrat, so there’s probably some wiggle room in the stimulus conditions to allow one and not the other. Ya think?

School systems around the state are getting a little reprieve. That free federal money coming into the state will allow school systems to restore much of their budgets cut earlier by the cutbacks in Augusta. The schools were told yesterday that although much of the federal money will be for specific purposes, such as special education, it will free up some of those locally provided funds for other purposes.

One of President Obama’s goals with his spending package was to assure that many public employees, including teachers, would be able to keep their jobs during this recession and it’s that purpose that Maine schools will be providing their portion of the funds. This is not the same situation mentioned above about the money being used to pay down debt.

School systems may also be saving some money as the result of the completion of health care costs negotiated between the Maine Education Association and Anthem Insurance, the provider of health care insurance for school districts. The newspaper has reported, for example, that Portland had budgeted an increase of about five percent for health insurance, but the negotiations resulted in no increase. So that’s money that can be used elsewhere or even eliminated to hold down the budget for the next year. It would be true for school systems throughout the state.

Changing the topic just a little, I’m probably the only one wondering if Manny is already being Manny again, this time out in Los Angeles. To be honest, neither the news media nor the people involved are posing the possibility, but I find it amusing that following a tense negotiations season that came down to the beginning of spring training to get resolved, Manny is already complaining of injury.

He missed the planned return to the lineup last week because of an injury to his hamstring. Over the weekend he was taken out of a game after he once again complained of injuring his hamstring while sliding in the outfield to catch a fly ball. He’ll miss several days with only light practice, and the Dodgers say it could be at least a week. Naturally, as Boston did when he first started his tantrum while playing for the Red Sox, the Dodgers are playing it down. It does seem like it’s a little early for Manny to be Manny.

Manny, of course, is Manny Ramirez who used “injury” to aggravate the Sox into trading him last season.


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