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AUGUSTA – Rep. Strang Burgess Survey: District Residents Favor Affordable Insurance, Residency Requirement for Welfare

Residents of House District 108 want the right to buy health insurance from out-of-state companies and believe that newcomers to Maine should have to live in the state for at least 30 days before they can start collecting welfare benefits. They also want to require super-majorities in the Legislature to increase taxes or fees and they support school consolidation to reduce administrative costs.

Those topics generated the most overwhelming responses to an 18-question constituent survey sent by Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess to residents of ChebeagueIsland, Cumberland, Long Island and part of North Yarmouth.

“I’m grateful to all the folks who took the time to complete the questionnaire,” said Rep. Strang Burgess (R-Cumberland), a first-term legislator. “Knowing the views of my constituents on some major issues helps me represent my district more faithfully. It’s interesting that you find such strong agreement when it comes to health insurance, welfare reform and school administrative consolidation.”

By 94 percent to 6 percent, residents said Mainers should be allowed to purchase health insurance from carriers in other states. “We face a real crisis in health insurance affordability here in Maine,” said Rep. Strang Burgess. “Premium costs in other states are sometimes half of what we pay. Any option that enables more people do buy coverage should be on the table. I supported a bill that would have done this, but it died in committee.”

By 92 percent to 8 percent, respondents agreed that the state should establish a 30-day residency requirement before a newcomer can begin collecting welfare benefits. Currently, there is no time requirement.

“Unfortunately, Maine has developed a national reputation as a welfare haven for people who have exhausted their eligibility in other states,” Rep. Strang Burgess observed. “Our goal should be to take care of Maine residents, first and foremost. On our limited funds, we should make sure that folks receiving welfare benefits actually live in Maine. A bill that would have set a 30-day residency rule was killed in committee and never came to the full House for a vote.”

Ninety percent of those completing the survey indicated that they favor the new push to consolidate school units to reduce administrative costs. And 82 percent said they would like to amend the Maine Constitution to require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to enact or increase a tax or license fee.

“Most folks are aware that Maine has some of the highest taxes in the country, and they’re not hopeful that Augusta will deliver meaningful tax relief,” Rep. Strang Burgess said. “This strong support for a constitutional curb on the Legislature shows that folks are frustrated by the tax-and-spend mentality and believe that legislators need to be restrained by law. I voted for a bill that would have sent such an amendment out to the people, but the bill was killed in the full Legislature.”

In another lopsided result, 68 percent of respondents support abolishing the “savings offset” payment – also called the “Dirigo tax” – which taxes people with private health insurance to subsidize enrollees in the Dirigo Health program. Meanwhile, 59 percent reject the idea of the State of Maine leaving the private insurance market and becoming a self-insured provider for Dirigo Health. “I voted against this bill, but it passed the full Legislature,” Rep. Strang Burgess noted.

On the environment, 80 percent said that they support the Land for Maine’s Future program, and 66 percent support the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which establishes a carbon dioxide cap and trade program. And 65 percent said they approve of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection developing rules to regulate the emissions of outdoor wood boilers used in residential housing.

Most respondents (62 percent) said Maine schools should not be able to start classes until after Labor day, and 63 percent agreed that Maine should adopt a uniform school year.


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