I’m proud to be the grandson of Waldo Beck. He worked hard all his life. I wasn’t around when he first started working for his father’s roofing company, but I watched him climbing ladders and onto roofs well into his 80s.

My grandfather directed his Yankee frugality, work ethic and resolve toward his North Star: his family. He literally helped build the community in Waterville, not just with hammers and nails but with his drive to build a future for the younger generations.

I bet you know a lot of seniors who have much in common with my grandfather — people who have built our state into what it is today. We owe them so much.

Maine is the oldest state in the nation, with 50 people turning 65 years old each day. We policymakers need to do all we can to help seniors age in dignity and maintain their independence.

There’s no silver bullet. It’s a complex challenge that requires our best policymaking on many fronts.

As House chairman of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, I had particular concerns about a large auto insurance company’s plans to hike rates for seniors.


This insurer wanted to charge higher rates based solely on a senior’s age, like a 64-year-old senior having to pay 6 percent more just because he or she turned 65. These increases would have been triggered by age alone, not on driving history.

I introduced legislation to prevent this from ever happening here in Maine. Insurance companies should not be able to penalize seniors simply because they are getting older. My bill would remove any ambiguity in state law, making it crystal clear, whether we’re talking about seniors’ existing insurers or seniors who are shopping around for a new insurer.

Fortunately, Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa recently blocked this particular proposal. I want to thank him and also ensure that no loopholes in our insurance code allow variations of this proposal to advance in the future.

Driving is important to seniors’ independence, especially in a rural state like Maine. Slapping seniors with a rate increase just because they’ve marked another birthday undermines their independence.

Fairness in auto insurance rates is part of the bigger picture. I’m proud to have supported other measures to benefit seniors.

The Legislature has, for example, exempted military pensions from income taxes and protected the Drugs for the Elderly and Medicaid Savings programs that help seniors pay for medicine and doctor’s visits. We’re helping seniors live independently longer with much-needed raises for in-home direct care workers and by expanding Meals on Wheels. We’re encouraging the development of adult family care so seniors can more easily age in place.


I’m particularly concerned about the effect of rising property taxes on seniors and indeed all property taxpayers. Many are on fixed incomes and struggling to cover their household expenses. On this issue, we must be honest: When the state fails to live up to its promise on revenue sharing, costs are simply shifted to local communities. Local property taxpayers are forced to make up the difference or see cuts to important local services like schools, firefighting, snowplowing and road maintenance. At the same time, we must expect towns and cities to make tough choices and prioritize property tax relief while protecting vital services when they have additional revenues. The next Legislature must make their own tough choices about state revenue and the urgent need to prevent towns and cities from relying further on property taxes.

Seniors have seen some relief through taking advantage of the Property Tax Fairness Credit, but more work must be done. This past session, I submitted a bill to exempt Social Security income from consideration in the Property Tax Fairness Credit. In the second session of a Legislature, a bill needs approval from the Legislative Council to move forward. While the Legislative Council apparently did not agree with me about the urgency of this matter, I maintain that seniors cannot wait any longer for property tax relief.

It takes all of us, regardless of party, working together to make sure Maine seniors can age in dignity. I saw how much my grandfather valued his independence. It was so important to him to stay in his home as he aged, the home in the community where our family’s roots go back nearly a century.

My grandfather was able to do this, and I am committed to working for that kind of security for other Maine seniors as well. They certainly have earned it.

Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, is a fourth-term House member who represents parts of Waterville and Oakland.

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