The Maine People’s Alliance senior care proposal: Take 2

I hate writing follow-up post because I know that a follow-up post means I failed to effectively communicate my thoughts the first time.

I almost didn’t write about my support for the Maine People’s Alliance campaign for universal in home senior care because I knew 700-ish words wouldn’t be enough.  Truth be told, it’s been a while since I wrote a post I’m completely confident in or proud of — even my Petty tribute.

In my defense, I’ve got a lot of unexpected circumstances on my responsibility plate, like many other Maine families. And over the spring and summer, a few income sources dried up without any correlative decreases on the expense side of the equation, which means I’ve been in an ever-increasing state of panic mode.

I used to complain that dealing with so much partisan scripting in the media was a cold, wet wool blanket on my creativity. Writing in panic mode on late Friday and Saturday night is like having an electric chair for a work station — or, more accurately the standing version of an electric chair.

Worse, I’m aware of the effect that my panic mode is having on my writing. I know as soon as I click publish, I will remember a bunch of phrases I wanted to use. I had my doubts about my capacity to compress at least 2000 words of thinking about the universal in home care proposal into a single blog post.

Like I said previously, on the surface I couldn’t agree more with the endeavor. I love the idea of all seniors and disabled with a care need having access to in home services — especially in a state as old and disabled as ours.

I love the idea of having the services governed by its own board of people elected by those using and providing the services. I love the idea of improving standards for in home care and the wages in home care staff receive.

On the surface, the proposal preserves dignities, promotes community, and provides education and job opportunities in a state desperately needing rehabilitation in all those areas.

Below the surface, all I see is pending political hullabaloo. Lawmakers and citizens on the right aren’t going to be any more keen on the idea of increasing taxes on wages over $127,000 than they were about an education surtax on incomes over $200,000 from the last round of referenda.

Does anyone remember the shutdown in July or how much the education surtax issue contributed to a stalemate in our legislature over the budget. I’m not sure why the drafters of this proposal would expect this funding mechanism to be received any differently.

Real talk? Do I think that people earning over $127,000 could absorb a 1.9 percent tax increase? Yes, but that’s my perception, not theirs.

I don’t begrudge people in that earning bracket their perceptions or their moderate financial success, and here’s why. I’ve known people in that bracket over the course of my life in Maine, and some of them have been small business owners.

Owner/proprietors of businesses that size in Maine have been paying ever increasing property taxes as the state has failed to fulfill its responsibilities when it comes to things like educating our children. These owner/proprietors are busy people who don’t have a lot of time for cooking meals and self-care so they eat out frequently and purchase services us poor folk consider DIY.

In doing so, these owner/proprietors help other local owner proprietors pay their property taxes and employees. Further, small business owners are often the first to step up when it comes to community charity, and I’ve seen more than one find something for someone in dire need to do to get a little cash that person’s way.

So if those folks feel like they’re already bearing a big chunk of Maine’s economic need burden, I can’t say they’re wrong. I may still perceive that they could absorb a 1.9 percent tax increase, but again, that’s my perception.

In my experience, the best way to reach consensus with a diverse group of stakeholders is to start by acknowledging the diversity of the perceptions. When it comes to how human beings think and work together, perception is everything.

The MPA is right to highlight and attempt to solve the senior care crisis, but we don’t have time to get mired in a left/right battle over funding sources. Starting the increase threshold at $127,000 is asking for one.

That battle over funding for education referred to earlier goes back before the July shutdown, back before the 128th legislature, and back a bunch of previous legislatures to 2003.

That’s when Maine voters first asked the state to fund 55 percent of education costs. Kids in kindergarten then have now graduated high school (hopefully) without ever seeing that come to fruition.  I know plenty of kids who would’ve benefited from fewer cuts to school spending on the local end during that time period.

As old as Maine’s population is, we don’t have 14 years to quibble over how to fund better and broader access to in home care for seniors. All I was trying to say in my previous post is that for the sake of legislative timeliness should the campaign be successful, I wish drafters of the MPA proposal had taken all that recent legislative history into consideration.

By the way, there is a third follow-up already mostly composed in my head — believe it or not, I’m going to tie Elon Musk into this never-ending diatribe because I already know I didn’t quite get to the heart of what I’m trying to say.

Endnote:  I’m interrupting my panic mode to do these extra follow-up posts, so I don’t have time to do my usual excess hyperlinking, but feel free to search back my archive or the BDN or Google to double check any of my context statements.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.