Monday, May 4, 2009

Flu, Taxes, Arctic Melting

A nice beginning to the week. The sun is shining this morning, but clouds should be increasing before the day is over. Soon we’ll enter a mostly showery week right into next weekend. Wednesday may be dry.

A good supply of flu medication arrived in Maine Saturday night and President Obama has asked Congress to set aside 1.5 billion dollars for future possible crises. But it appears as if this current flu scare was, as we suspected, more political and news media hype than reality. Reports Sunday were that the epidemic was slowing down in Mexico, the hardest hit country.

Speaking of the flu, did you read over the weekend that after his gaffe last week telling everyone he would recommend people not travel in confined places like planes, trains, and buses, Vice President Biden went home for the weekend. He lives in Delaware. How’d he travel? Yup. On an Amtrak train.

As he promised, and he did it in the morning, last Friday Gov. Baldacci released his plan to close up the almost six million dollar revenue shortfall for the state. That shortfall includes more than a million dollars that had to be cut from the current budget which expires in less than two months. Unfortunately, his plan did not make long range changes. He almost has the currently projected shortfall covered, but it’s mostly through stop gap measures, some of which could force municipalities to increase property taxes.

There were some program budget cuts and state workers will take a pretty big hit, but as legislative Republican leaders said over the weekend, the governor only left the real problem for the next governor and legislature to solve. The governor apparently has relied heavily on the state’s Rainy Day Fund and stimulus money to cover his plan for the immediate future.

The Republicans would like to see some major program spending changes such as bring Maine into line with federal guidelines for welfare programs.

The Rainy Day Fund is designed to pay for emergency situations and I’d guess the current budget crisis might be considered one. I wonder if enough will be left for the forest fire season or next year’s storm season or, even though it isn’t turning out to be an emergency, something like a the current so-called flu epidemic.

I also have to wonder how using ‘stimulus’ money is stimulating anything? Seems to me it’s misnamed; should be “bailout” money. What will Maine’s government do when those funds all run out? Hmmm? Tax us out of our funds?

For some inexplicable reason, the Maine Heritage Policy Center has endorsed the governor’s plan. As I read the release, it’s primarily because the plan adheres to the governor’s no tax increase pledge. I guess that outfit isn’t concerned with the future, either. I could be wrong as I only read through the release quickly.

Speaking of taxes, there was a report over the weekend that many of us might be in for a surprise when next year’s income tax time rolls around. Seems the tax reduction was only to be $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples. (There’s a difference there?) The IRS apparently goofed on the new withholding tables and many people will discover that more than the allowed amounts will have been taken out of paychecks. Guess what? You guessed it. The money will have to be paid back at income tax time next April.

NASA has released a report where it says, yes, people are responsible for the arctic warming. Only it isn’t the CO2 and stuff being released into the air but rather its clean air laws we have to live under. Those requirements are causing an unnatural balance in nature which, according to NASA, is the real culprit in any warming trend. I first saw that article either last Friday or Saturday.

We alluded to it Friday that the passage of the same sex marriage law in Maine would lead to an attempt for a People’s Veto to overturn in. Over the weekend we learned that indeed Michael Heath of the Maine Family Policy Council will initiate such an attempt if the law gets signed by Gov. Baldacci. He will have 90 days from the closing of the legislature to get nearly 55,100 signatures to force a referendum. He would need those signatures by Sept. 3 or 4 for the question to be on the November ballot, or a couple weeks later to meet the 90 day deadline for a June ballot question.

It was a busy weekend for politicos.


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