LePage tax cut plan, based on disproven thinking, comes at a staggering price

Gov. Paul LePage wants a Maine that’s more competitive. He wants to attract more corporate investment to spark job growth. He wants to entice more people to move to Maine, and he doesn’t want Maine’s wealthiest to have a reason to decamp and declare their residency elsewhere. He wants a modern tax system for a modern age.

The plan relies to a dangerous extent on unproven and even disproven thinking about people and businesses’ behavior in reaction to tax policy. It relies on misconceptions about job growth and even about Maine’s tax system. While LePage’s tax plan includes a few beneficial changes, it would be unwise — indeed, dangerous — for lawmakers to enact the plan in its entirety….    READ MORE

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/03/12/the-point/lepage-tax-cut-plan-based-on-disproven-thinking-comes-at-a-staggering-price/

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Surviving Friendly Fire: 8 Tips for Dealing with Unfair Criticism

Originally posted on :

criticismSooner or later…sooner if you’re in a leadership position…you will get wounded by “friendly fire”— unfair criticism from a boss or colleague.

Friendly fire comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it shows up in your annual performance review when the boss rates you as failing to meet expectations in an area of performance where you had no idea you were falling short. Other times friendly fire shows up when a colleague criticizes you in an effort to deflect attention from his/her own shortcomings. Regardless of the cause or circumstance, friendly fire hurts. It erodes trust between people, causes rifts in relationships, and stymies effective teamwork. You can’t control when friendly fire comes your way, but you can choose how to respond. Here are 8 tips on how to survive friendly fire:

1. Remember that your response shapes your reputation – Above all else, remember this point: the way you choose…

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It’s All Urgent! Six Ways to Prioritize When Everything’s a Priority

“Action expresses priorities.” — Indian statesman Mahatma Gandhi.

As Scottish poet Robert Burns pointed out in his poem “To a Mouse” in 1785,

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”

In other words, no matter how carefully you plan, things still go wrong. -

- See more at: http://theproductivitypro.com/blog/2015/01/its-all-urgent-six-ways-to-prioritize-when-everythings-a-priority/#sthash.0H4d8qdw.dpuf

© 2014 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™
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Commissioner’s Update – January 29, 2015

Originally posted on Maine DOE Newsroom:

From the Maine Department of Education

The Maine DOE will begin visits next month to provide targeted technical assistance to schools preparing to award proficiency-based diplomas.

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Millions in public school funds on the line if Maine loses federal education waiver

Posted Jan. 28, 2015, at 6:55 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2015, at 7:26 p.m.

Brewer High School student Isaak Gauthier (left) works on a Kindle with class teacher Kevin Napolillo (right) at Brewer High School in this 2013 BDN file photo.

Terry Farren | BDN
Brewer High School student Isaak Gauthier (left) works on a Kindle with class teacher Kevin Napolillo (right) at Brewer High School in this 2013 BDN file photo.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is in danger of losing an important federal waiver that could have ramifications on funding for the state’s public schools unless the Legislature changes the way teachers and principals are evaluated before March 15, according to the Maine Department of Education   READ MORE…

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All six of Maine’s charter schools have student waiting lists

Gov. Paul LePage greets dozens of Maine Charter School students at the State House in Augusta on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.

Contributed photo
Gov. Paul LePage greets dozens of Maine Charter School students at the State House in Augusta on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.
Posted Jan. 26, 2015, at 5:17 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — More than two years after Maine’s first public charter schools opened, there are student waiting lists at all six in operation.

According to Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission, 917 students are enrolled at Maine’s charter schools, all of which are still ramping up their enrollments to what could soon push Maine’s overall charter school student population to several thousand.

“There’s definitely a lot of demand out there,” Roger Brainerd, director of the Maine Association for Charter Schools, said. “No question.”

Monday, which marked the beginning of national School Choice Week, was charter school day at the State House. The event attracted dozens of charter school students and educators.

Despite rosy projections for charter school growth in terms of student numbers, expansion for charter schools poses a unique challenge. Their public funding comes in the form of per-student fees, but charter schools don’t receive separate state funding for expansion or upgrades to a school’s physical plant. Kautz said that’s a problem that will necessitate active and ongoing private fundraising.

However, there’s another major funding change in the works this year that Kautz said is likely to find strong support from the commission and most education officials in Maine. Although a bill has not yet been presented, Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Department of Education are expected to propose charter schools essentially be considered stand-alone school districts when it comes to funding.

That means that instead of charging a charter school student’s sending district for his or her tuition — meaning the financial burden is concentrated on traditional public schools located near charters — charter school funding would come directly from the state’s general purpose aid account.

“When the charter schools send out a bill and the local district has to write a check, it doesn’t create warm feelings,” Kautz said. “We would be happy to see [the new funding model] because we think it would create a more harmonious working relationship.”

Students at Monday’s event sounded a common theme: At a charter school, there’s greater flexibility for students to achieve learning benchmarks through unique methods, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. In fact, in several ways there’s nowhere to hide from teachers who are constantly monitoring individual students’ progress.

“This was a good choice for me,” said Alec Dupuis of Greene, who is a junior at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland. “At my old school, I felt like I was surrounded by people who were not motivated to learn.”

Theo Dean of South Portland, a sophomore at Baxter, said being put more in charge of her education has helped her mature and learn in a way she believes will better prepare her for success.

“I went to Baxter because it felt like a school where I could have more of an influence on my education,” Dean said.

Hilary Chase is a math teacher at Maine Connections Academy, an online virtual charter school with nearly 300 students. Having come from a traditional classroom, Chase said that because of the amount of data collected, she is able to zero in on each student’s progress far better than she ever could before.

“Their grade is based on what they know and what they can do,” she said. “None of my students are ever graded just for doing their homework.”

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Expenses up more than revenue in state K-12 budget proposal

The governor’s proposed biennial budget targets new funding for some key K-12 initiatives, including teacher evaluations and help for struggling schools, but also puts more burden on local property taxpayers because costs are going up higher than increases in state aid.

K-12 cost projections could come down over the next month when the Department of Education refines its estimates, but right now the total cost of education is estimated to go up by $68 million in 2015-2016. At the same time, state aid in the budget is increasing by just over $20 million.  That means local property taxpayers will be asked to pick up the rest, with the required mill rate projected to go from 8.1 to 8.44.

Department officials say the mill rate could and likely will change since the budget numbers driving it had to be submitted in December based on available data. New projections are not expected until sometime in February.

Projected increases, largely based on inflation of current costs, include:

  • At least $10 million more for special education.
  • A $38 million increase in so-called operating costs covering teachers and other staff that are driven by student counts and the population served, including the economically disadvantaged.
  • A $7.5 million increase in the amount districts have to put in for their working teachers’ retirement in 2015-2016; and $8.8 million in 2016-2017.
  • $6 million to allow the state to pick up the local share of charter school tuitions – a proposal that will reduce the local tax burden for charter schools in some communities by spreading the cost out across the state.

In addition to those costs, there are increases in some ongoing programs paid for out of the “miscellaneous costs” portion of General Purpose Aid and some new targeted initiatives in what the governor’s office is calling the “Enhancing Student Performance and Opportunity” fund, which also comes out of General Purpose Aid.

In miscellaneous costs those include:

  • More than $2 million for data and management support of Essential Programs and Services.
  • More than $1 million in 2015-2016 and $1.8 million in 2016-2017 to allow regionalization of services provided by the Maine Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
  • An $800,000 increase for the Maine School of Science and Math in 2015-2016 and $1 million in 2016-2017.
  • Increasing a one-time allocation of $650,000 for Bridge Year in the current school year to $1 million in each year of the biennium to expand the program.

Additions to the Enhancing Student Performance and Opportunity fund include:

  • $1.5 million in both years of the biennium to help struggling schools.
  • $1.5 million in both years of the biennium to help CTE centers attain national certification by acquiring new equipment and having more training for staff.
  • $2.5 million to help districts implement new teacher and principal evaluation systems.

The budget also creates outside of General Purpose Aid a special fund to encourage consolidation of administrative services. Specifically the budget provides $5 million each year of the biennium to pay up-front costs for efforts that reduce school administrative costs long term. Districts would have to apply for the funds.

The K-12 education budget is part of the governor’s overall $6.3 billion biennial budget, which is attracting attention largely for its proposed reduction of the state income tax by broadening and increasing the sales tax. The budget is being reviewed by the Appropriations Committee, which can and will make amendments to the proposal before it goes to the full Legislature for a vote.

Contact: Cornelia Brown, executive director cbrown@msmaweb.com
Victoria Wallack, director of government relations and communications vwallack@msmaweb.com
Telephone: 207-622-3473 or 1-800-660-8484

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LePage’s ridiculous corporate tax giveaway will face legislative scrutiny

By Mike Tipping

lepage 300x300
Yesterday, the Maine Legislature referred the tax conformity package proposed by Governor LePage to both the Appropriations and Taxation committees for further consideration and initial votes. There, it will face its first real scrutiny.

As I explained in a recent column, the bill includes a ridiculous $6-$10 million tax giveaway to large, mostly out-of-state corporations through a complicated mechanism called “bonus depreciation.” Basically, the provision allows certain large firms to get a tax benefit by pretending that business equipment they purchased in the last year is depreciating at a faster rate than it actually is.

The idea behind the policy, when it’s applied proactively, is to stimulate corporate investment, but the legislation as proposed would apply the bonus retroactively, only benefiting companies who already spent money this way in 2014. LePage’s proposal is, therefore, purely a multi-million-dollar corporate handout with no potential return for the state.

While the measure seems mostly to be flying under the radar (other than my column, there’s been virtually no mention of the handout in the media, and no opposition has been voiced so far by legislative leaders), some lawmakers are gearing up to oppose the giveaway.

“When we’re looking at totally eliminating revenue sharing to towns in the governor’s budget and massive cuts to drugs for elderly, we should be thinking about what’s a higher priority for us,” said Representative Matt Moonen, a Democrat from Portland who serves on the Taxation Committee, when asked about the bill. “Is it towns, cities, drugs for elderly or giving away something in the range of $10 million to big corporations?”

“You’d be hard pressed to find a small business that made $2 million in business equipment purchases last year. This bill benefits big businesses, almost all of them out of state. Is that where we’d want our tax dollars to go?”

Moonen also noted that because the bill is being submitted as emergency legislation, requiring two-thirds support for passage, it would take the opposition of only a bit more than one third of the House or Senate to prevent it from becoming law.

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LePage proposes under-the-radar corporate tax giveaway

This indefensible idea makes a mockery of the chief executive’s claims of fiscal responsibility.

By Mike Tipping

Over the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard a lot about Gov. LePage and his plans for this legislative session. Perhaps you watched his blustery and boisterous inaugural address, or read an analysis of what’s to come in his new budget proposal.

What you probably didn’t hear about, however, is his stealthy attempt to advance one of the most blatantly unnecessary corporate handouts of his governorship.

At 4:09 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, the LePage administration sent out a news release announcing that it would “propose legislation which would conform Maine’s income tax law to federal tax law.” Buried in the fourth paragraph was a note that this package will include “the extension of bonus depreciation.”

Bonus depreciation is a policy that was enacted at the federal level in 2008 as a temporary measure to bolster the economy during the Great Recession. It’s somewhat complicated, but basically it allows large corporations to get an up-front bonus on the amount they deduct from their taxes for wear and tear on equipment and buildings that they’ve just purchased.

The bonus depreciation tax giveaway affects only large corporations – those making purchases of more than $2 million. Smaller businesses making smaller investments are eligible for a different business expense deduction instead.

BIG HANDOUT FOR BIG CORPORATIONS

Thanks to this up-front deduction on their capital spending, along with all the other subsidies they already get for this kind of investment, these large firms are often able to deduct from their year-end taxes more than they actually spent on any new equipment.

There’s significant debate over whether this corporate handout actually does help boost the economy. The available research shows that most corporations just make the same purchases they would anyway and pocket the bonus money.

LePage can’t even try to make this economic argument, however, because his proposed legislation would affect only the 2014 tax year – the one that ended on the day he issued his news release. There is no possible way that his plan will increase business investments in the future, because it rewards only investments that have already been made. It’s an unnecessary windfall for companies that happened to engage in that kind of spending last year.

So how much money is LePage planning to hand over to these corporations? A Maine Revenue Service fiscal impact statement for a similar provision two years ago estimated that it would cost the state $11.6 million in the first year. This is a different year, and the deduction may be structured somewhat differently, but a conservative estimate for the cost of this handout might be somewhere between $6 million and $10 million.

This money would basically be given as an interest-free loan to these corporations – to be paid back, if at all, over the full course of the depreciation of their business assets, which could be decades. If the tax break continued, it would cost that much again every year.

TAX BREAK’S COST EXCEEDS SAVINGS FROM GOVERNOR’S AID CUTS

To put those numbers in perspective, that’s more than LePage has claimed to have saved from all of his cuts to public assistance programs put together.

LePage’s cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – which went into effect in 2012 and cut off support for 3,000 families – saved the state just $2.5 million a year, according to the governor’s own projections.

The cuts to General Assistance for immigrants that LePage made a centerpiece of his re-election campaign are due to affect 1,000 desperate families and save just $1 million, according to his office’s estimates.

To justify these and other cuts, LePage has often claimed that Maine’s budget is stretched to the limit. How then can he possibly justify this kind of handout to corporations, many of them out-of-state, while gaining absolutely nothing in return?

He can’t. This proposal simply can’t be justified or defended. It makes a mockery of LePage’s claims of fiscal responsibility and shows exactly where his true priorities lie.

Short of shoveling cash into a pile and burning it, it’s hard to think of any budgeting decision less intelligent than just giving money away to corporations that were already well enough off to make more than $2 million in capital expenditures last year.

Will the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House stand up for fiscal sanity and work together to block this ridiculous giveaway, or will LePage be allowed to slip it through? What happens could tell us a great deal about what to expect in Augusta over the next two years.

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Washington State Democratic Party Committee Votes to Reject Common Core

By djournednthony Cody.

The Central Committee of the Washington State Democratic Party has passed a resolution that roundly condemns the Common Core standards. This is the first time a statewide Democratic Party committee has taken a public position against the Common Core, and it happened in the back yard of the Gates Foundation, which has provided the funding that made the national standards project possible. This could signal a sea-change for the beleaguered standards, because up until now, political opposition has been strongest in the Republican party.

Resolution Opposing Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS the copyrighted (and therefore unchangeable) Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of controversial top-down K-12 academic standards that were promulgated by wealthy private interests without research-based evidence of validity and are developmentally inappropriate in the lowest grades; and

WHEREAS, as a means of avoiding the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment prohibition against federal meddling in state education policy, two unaccountable private trade associations–the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)–have received millions of dollars in funding from the Gates Foundation and others to create the CCSS; and

WHEREAS the U.S. Department of Education improperly pressured state legislatures into adopting the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes standardized testing based on them as a condition of competing for federal Race to the Top (RTTT) stimulus funds that should have been based on need; and

WHEREAS as a result of Washington State Senate Bill 6669, which passed the State legislature on March 11, 2010, the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction (OSPI) adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on July 20, 2011; and

WHEREAS this adoption effectively transfers control over public school standardized testing from locally elected school boards to the unaccountable corporate interests that control the CCSS and who stand to profit substantially; and

WHEREAS the Washington State Constitution also calls for public education to be controlled by the State of Washington through our elected State legislature, our elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction and our elected local school boards; and

WHEREAS implementation of CCSS will cost local school districts hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for standardized computer-based tests, new technology, new curricula and teacher training at a time when Washington is already insufficiently funding K-12 Basic Education without proven benefit to students; and WHEREAS some states have already withdrawn from CCSS;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we call upon the Washington State legislature and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to withdraw from the CCSS and keep K-12 education student-centered and accountable to the people of Washington State.

Submitted by Sarajane Siegfriedt, Resolutions Chair.

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