A weekly roundup of issues making news this week in central Maine …
THE BATTLE BETWEEN Central Maine Power and the city of Augusta continued this week. The city on Tuesday filed a complaint against the company with the Public Utilities Commission, a day before a legislative committee heard testimony on a CMP-supported bill that would cost Augusta about $200,000 a year.
City officials are right to be suspicious of CMP’s motives for backing the bill, which would change where utility companies pay excise tax on their vehicles. After all, CMP opposed identical legislation in 2011, and its sudden support on the matter immediately follows an Augusta natural gas bidding process that did not go in favor of CMP’s parent company.
There will be more to come on that issue, as the PUC looks into whether CMP has been using its resources to act on behalf of Maine Natural Gas, which, like CMP, is owned by Iberdrola USA.
Whatever its motives, however, CMP is correct in saying that excise taxes are meant to fund road maintenance and thus should be paid where the vehicle contributes to road wear. If a CMP truck spends all its time in Fairfield, Farmington or Skowhegan, then that is where the excise tax associated with that vehicle should go.
That’s not to understate the impact the change would have on Augusta. Lawmakers, who will work on the bill on Monday, must consider that passing the bill in its current form would force the city to deal with the sudden loss of a significant amount of revenue.
GOV. PAUL LEPAGE made a big showing this week when he released his new anti-drug initiative, which calls for more resources for law enforcement and prosecution.
“We must hunt down the dealers and get them off the streets,” LePage announced, adding to the tough talk that speaks to many voters but does little to address the underlying problems.
There is no doubt that Maine’s demand for drugs has made it a target for out-of-state dealers. Police and prosecutors need the resources to deal with that problem.
But a large part of Maine’s drug problem comes from within. Most abusers of prescription pain medications, for instance, get the drugs from friends, not from dealers. Controlling the supply, then, means tighter restrictions on how pills are prescribed, not busting down doors.
And unless the law enforcement effort is coupled with addiction intervention and treatment, the demand for drugs will always win out.
A LePage spokeswoman said the governor recognizes that treatment plays a key role, but his record shows otherwise.
The governor should follow the lead of his counterpart in Vermont and make more effective treatment the centerpiece of his public discussion on drug abuse.
HUNGRY DEER will be on the move following a tough winter, a state biologist told the newspaper this week.
Fourteen deer have been killed in the last month along a half-mile stretch of Route 139 in Unity. Kendall Marden, of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says deer will be more active than usual as the temperatures warm this spring, as they look for food after hunkering down in the cold and snow during this long winter.
Motorists need to be on the lookout, particularly at dawn and dusk and in more rural areas.