THUMBS DOWN to signs that spending on this year’s gubernatorial race will far exceed the total spent four years ago.

The Republican Governors Association, its Democratic counterpart and other groups combined to spend more than $3.9 million in 2010, when Gov. Paul LePage earned a surprising win.

That was a three-fold increase in spending from 2006, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Now with the incumbent LePage looking to hold onto his seat, and Republicans looking for a repeat of its sweeping 2010 victory in Maine, the RGA is pledging its full support. The group already has spent $350,000, after spending just more than $1 million in the entire 2010 race.

The Democratic Governors Association also is spending freely, including a $150,000 contribution to Maine Forward, a liberal political action committee that already has booked a $2 million ad buy for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic nominee.

Mainers can expect an onslaught political ads, mostly of the negative variety, between now and Nov. 4.

Political operatives told the Portland Press Herald that national groups are zeroing in on gubernatorial races nationwide because with gridlock in Washington, D.C., policy changes are now happening more often at the state level.

Lucky us.

THUMBS UP to the Kennebec Valley Humane Society for temporarily waiving adoption fees for adult cats.

In the heart of kitten season, the shelter is looking after more than 50 adult cats and more than 75 kittens. Each animal has been spayed or neutered and has had its routine vaccinations, at a cost that can exceed $100.

Research by the ASPCA and elsewhere has shown that no-cost adult cat adoptions can have a tremendous positive impact on the cat population.

The overpopulation of cats is a constant problem at the KVHS and other shelters around the state. The influx every summer puts a tremendous strain on these shelters and their volunteer foster families.

According to Hillary Roberts, executive director at KVHS, about half of the cats are surrendered by their owners, often under heartbreaking circumstances, while the other half are lost or abandoned cats and kittens found by residents or animal control officers.

Much of the trouble, and the resources, could be saved if pet owners take the easy and responsible step of having their pets spayed or neutered.

THUMBS UP to recently released data showing the administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps, has grown consistently tighter over the last five years, even as use of the program has grown.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, benefits issued to ineligible households or excessive benefits issued to eligible households fell for the seventh consecutive year in 2013, to 2.61 percent. Overall, more than 99 percent of SNAP benefits go to eligible households.

That is a remarkable level of efficiency for a program that distributed $78 billion in 2013, and experienced rapid, precipitous growth as a result of the Great Recession and its aftermath,

Maine’s SNAP error rate, a combination of overpayments and underpayments, is a low 2.16, well below the national average of 3.42.

The USDA also reported that trafficking of SNAP benefits, a violation of federal law, has been cut by three-quarters since 1998.

Together, these facts put the lie to the idea that SNAP benefits are mismanaged by state governments and misused by participants.

One matter of concern, though, is the high denial rate for SNAP benefits in many states. That means some resident may be improperly turned away from benefits that provide a crucial link in the social safety net.


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