I take issue with the newspaper’s editorial claims that we are a sharply divided state, and with its pessimistic predictions for the coming legislative session.

I believe the majority of Maine people are much less divided than the pundit class would have us think. Among other things, we all want a healthy environment in which to live, quality schools for our children, economic opportunity for all our citizens, access to affordable health care, and government that serves the public interest.

As the Green Independent candidate for Senate District 23 this year, I was struck by incumbent legislators’ repeated insistence that the Maine Legislature is a far less divisive place than the media portray. This message is consistent with my impression of the candidates I met on the campaign trail, who all struck me as fundamentally decent and reasonable people sincerely concerned with the welfare of Maine and its people.

Happily, this also describes the vast majority of Maine people I have had the good fortune to meet in the 30 years I have been privileged to call Maine home.

Unfortunately, this good will and willingness to find common ground is routinely sabotaged by highly partisan political campaigns and their special interest backers, which once again this year flooded Maine with campaign spending, much of it originating out of state. Spending records were broken again this year, most of it benefiting even “clean election” Democrats under a loophole that significantly undercuts the purpose of publicly funded campaigns.

I can’t be the only person who can think of better uses for the millions of dollars spent cluttering our mailboxes, phone lines and airwaves with largely vacuous, alarmist and repetitive content.

One ad that stood out for me as representing everything that is wrong with politics these days was the appalling, pre-election, full page ad run by the NextGen Climate Action Committee in a number of Sunday papers proclaiming that “Paul LePage is an embarrassment” and “if you want LePage to take a hike, you gotta vote for Mike.”

While I am no LePage fan, having found him far too quick to dismiss pertinent facts that don’t neatly fit within his ideology (a recipe for bad policy), I have not found the Democrats immune from this defect, and LePage does raise some legitimate issues.

However, I was deeply offended by the incivility of the ad’s inherent disrespect for the many fine men and women of this state who happen to be LePage supporters. I shudder for the future of this state if any significant percentage of Democratic voters truly think that the 48 percent of Maine people who voted for LePage are buffoons, in which case those so afflicted would do well to engage in a bit of self-reflection and community involvement.

Turning to the newspaper’s prognostications, I am not prepared to write off any possibility of a MaineCare expansion in the coming year. Roger Katz was re-elected overwhelmingly, and I hope he has the good sense to reintroduce his eminently reasonable proposal that Maine take the money for the MaineCare expansion for only so long as the federal government is prepared to fund it at 100 percent.

I am no great fan of the Affordable Care Act as it perpetuates and strengthens our unconscionably expensive, administratively irrational and grossly unfair health care system, but there is no good reason not to accept the 100 percent federal funding offered. As many people already have pointed out, those funds would dramatically reduce the fiscal strain of uncompensated hospital care and would pump millions of badly needed dollars into our wage economy.

Expansion also, at least for a spell, would provide people with access to the health care many desperately need. The governor already has demonstrated his willingness to terminate people from MaineCare eligibility, and any administrative expense required to manage the expansion is a drop in the bucket compared to the financial benefits expansion would bring to Maine’s economy and the hospitals for which LePage professed such concern during his first term.

I also would remind those with short memories who promote the expansion of natural gas that the propane industry once promised similar cost savings to induce heating system conversions, but the savings evaporated rather dramatically over time. Experience suggests the gas industry’s long-term cost savings claims should be taken with a grain of salt, and Maine taxpayers, through their rates or otherwise, should in no way be tapped to subsidize any expansion of what is ultimately a non-sustainable, greenhouse gas contributing fossil fuel.

Alice Knapp, of Richmond, was a Green Independent candidate for Senate District 23.


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