Maine voters meet The Music Man and friends

By Paul Ackerman | Nov 02, 2017

In the 1962 film adaptation of the musical production "The Music Man," the lead character, one Professor Harold Hill, a consummate conman, presents the townspeople of River City, Iowa, with the tantalizing prospect of solving all their perceived local problems by forming a boys' band. Of course, he would be the one selling them all the uniforms and instruments, as well as teaching them how to use them. And, of course, he planns to skip town, leaving them to learn it all themselves ... if they can.

Playing off distress over local problems, a new pool table in town and juvenile delinquent pranks, he manages to bamboozle the town into believing he has the solution: learn to perform in a band! He offers distractions with pie-in-the-sky promises of solutions to complex problems.

Listening to radio ads recently blathering on about supporting Question 2 on Nov. 7 to expand Mainecare/Medicaid in Maine, yet again, and the even more syrupy ads for Yes on Question 1 to allow a casino “resort” to be built in southern Maine by one specific “entity” reminded me of the smarmy hucksterism of Prof. Hill.

Maine voters would have to wade through 29 pages of the PDF to read the mind-numbing verbiage that these referendum questions require as legal backing. I could hear Professor Harold Hill, “Oh, you got trouble in River City ... and I’m gonna show you how to fix it!”

The ballot questions, as worded, don’t give anyone the clear picture of what is behind these “citizen initiatives,” or the huge amounts of money funneled from outside Maine to bamboozle people into voting yes on them. Of course the proponents are claiming the moral high ground with monikers like “ProgressForMaine” (casinos as progress?),  or “Mainers for HealthCare,” which always make it sound like if you vote no you are against ... well, anything good. No, you just have common sense.

It is appalling knowing what is happening in other states after Medicaid was expanded and remembering what happened when Maine did this before. The enormous bill comes due sooner rather than later.

The fiscal impact statement for Question 2 says, “…this initiative is anticipated to require net annual appropriations from the general fund of $54,495,000. Federal costs would be around $525,000,000 annually.”  Do you think that Maine’s share of $54.5 million coming out of your pockets won’t be noticed? Do you think that there won’t be any skyrocketing of “anticipated costs”?  Do you think that the federal share (annually!) of $525 million for Maine is “free money,” and will be honored as promised?  Do previous unmet promises of 55 percent state education support give you any pause?

Maine cannot afford this pie-in-the-sky expansion of Medicaid. For those convinced that “single-payer” state-run plans are the end goal, take a look at Vermont’s experience that led to a near fiscal collapse if the program had not been shut down.

Question 1, the casino carve-out issue, is almost beyond belief. I have rarely seen a ballot measure designed so specifically to advantage only one entity/person. The legalese is crafted in such a way as to effectively apply to only one applicant! The Christmas-tree of payoffs to all and sundry vested interests within state agencies and offshoots is breathtaking. Naturally, the factor of what happens in many other states when you cut the gambling pie into smaller pieces within a larger region is studiously ignored.

The following paragraphs are from the state’s PDF, found on the website.

“The legislation does not describe or define the location of such a facility, but it does define the entity that is eligible to apply for such a license. The eligible applicant is the entity that in 2003 owned at least 51 percent of the entity that was licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County and conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002. Bangor Historic Track fits the latter part of this description, and Capital Seven LLC is the company that owned 51 percent or more of Bangor Historic Track in 2003. Capital Seven LLC, which is a limited liability company formed in Nevada and owned by Shawn Scott, is thus the only entity eligible to apply for a slot machine or casino license in York County under this initiative.

The initiated bill would raise the cap on the number of slot machines allowed to be registered in Maine from 3,000 to 4,500. The slot machine or casino operator would be required to collect and turn over to the Treasurer of State 1 percent of the gross income from slot machines to pay for administrative expenses of the Gambling Control Board. In addition, a total of 39 percent of the net income from slot machines would be collected and distributed by the Board in specified percentages for the particular programs and entities listed in the legislation ...

The above listed allocations would leave the licensed operator of the casino or slot machine facility able to retain 84 percent of the net income from table games and 41 percent of the net income from slot machine operations.”

Prof. Hill yet again, says that this will give Maine millions of dollars, for free, to fund all these wonderful things and solve all kinds of problems, and create “great jobs.”  Do you hear that train’s whistle yet, Prof. Hill? Your next stop is coming up. Oh, and if the casino doesn’t do so well, too bad, you are stuck with it.

But then, you could have voted no on Nov. 7 and driven Prof. Hill out of town before the con.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Nov 05, 2017 06:51

So, John, do you think adding another trillion and a half to the deficit -all to benefit the richest among us- is going to fix anything? Oh, the true purpose of this tax scheme is not to build but to destroy.


Bruce Bartlett, senior policy analyst in Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration, who even helped President Reagan craft his much-ballyhooed tax cuts has a different view of things.  (This is another cut and paste so go ahead and avert your eyes if you can't stand any real information.)


“Trump has said, “There’s no way that the middle class doesn’t greatly benefit’ from the proposed tax cuts.” Bruce answered, bluntly, “Well, that’s just a lie… the middle class really isn’t going to get any kind of tax cut and in fact it’s going to get screwed in lots of ways. For example, he’s talked on many occasions about getting rid of the deduction for state and local taxes. He’s talked about reducing the ability of people to save in 401(k)s. These are tax increases, really, that are going to hurt the middle class.” He elaborated, “So what his economic advisers have done is come up with this ridiculous rationalization that workers will see a huge increase in their wages if we cut the corporate tax rate. The fact is that we have experience with this. We don’t need to look to some esoteric mathematical model to know what’s going to happen.” Bruce added, “You can very easily go to, which is the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and look up real median wages and you can see what happened after the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which lowered the tax rate on corporations from 46 percent to 34 percent. And if you look at what happened to wages in the 10 years after 1986, wages fell. They did not go up. They fell. Workers were worse off.”

“And yet there are Republicans who claim that these proposed cuts are in the fine tradition of Ronald Reagan.”


Bartlett replied, “Well, that’s just a lie, too. And I know because I drafted the 1981 tax cut.” Later, Winship mentioned, “You wrote that you think the ultimate goal of the GOP is to create a deficit so large that Medicare and Medicaid can be decimated.” Bartlett confirmed this, saying, “That’s correct. The Republicans don’t advertise this, but in fact they all believe in a theory that I call ‘starve the beast,’ which says that the purpose of cutting taxes is to create a deficit which will then justify spending cuts. Under normal circumstances, you’re not going to be able to cut popular programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, but if the deficit gets really, really big, people may be frightened of it and be willing to accept as necessary spending cuts that would not otherwise be politically plausible.”

Posted by: Harold Bryson Mosher | Nov 05, 2017 03:02

John, do you mean Trump hasn't fixed that debt yet?  When exactly do we become great again?


Posted by: Gayle Murphy | Nov 04, 2017 21:38

Ya, okay Captain Cut and Paste. Don’t let $20 Trillion (with a T) Dollars worth of debt get in the way of more free stuff!



John Murphy

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Nov 04, 2017 18:24

"Do you think that the federal share (annually!) of $525 million for Maine...  will be honored as promised?"  I don't know Paul, but if we have to depend on Trump, certainly not, since undermining health care is one of his favorite things. In any case, Reuters has just reported that Amazon's new distribution center will be in Vancouver.  I guess they'd prefer leaving their employee's health care concerns to the Canadian government. "Jobs, jobs, jobs", anyone?


As for question one it seems like a simple case of two out-of-state billionaires arguing over who gets to fleece the suckers.  Let's be honest, after all, "gaming" is just gambling and calling it an "industry" is a cruel joke.  What does it produce but empty pockets and a degrading of the social contract?  Maine doesn't need this kind of sleaze.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 02, 2017 16:56

A con is a con is a con! There will always be people lured by the thought of making money, though gambling is a gamble and a con is still a con!

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