Rep’s View: Missing facts and distortions are no surprise

By Rep. Rich Cebra

(R-Naples)

House District 101

I read with no surprise at all, the columnn in last week’s Bridgton News titled, “Defending the Middle Class,” authored by Representative Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. In his response to my column in the previous week’s paper, he attempts to address my criticism of and warnings to the people of Maine, about his one-man crusade to smear the successes that the Republican Legislature has had on tax reform. Rep. Berry’s response column turned what could have been a real discussion about real tax reform into a class envy — Republicans are for the rich, Republicans hurt the middle class diatribe, full of sleight of hand, half-truth statements and flat out lies.

I have always had faith in you, the people of the Lake Region, to be able to decide the issues for yourselves. I clearly stated the facts in my previous column and have no desire to re-hash them point by point. Broadly speaking, the fact is, the people of Maine rejected Berry’s 102 new sales tax law. The Democrat-led legislature passed the bill into law and the people of Maine rejected it with a people’s veto at the ballot box, and rightly so. This fact is the impetus for Berry’s ire.

Regarding the Republican-led tax reform in this last legislature, 70,000 low and moderate income people in Maine will still have to file their income tax form, however, they won’t owe any state income tax, none.

Berry’s numbers referencing Republicans giving huge $24,000 tax breaks to the rich is nothing but a bold faced, class envy lie, attempting to mislead the public to score cheap election-year points.

Rep. Berry continues his distortions with claims that cuts to towns and property tax programs will cost “homeowners and renters more than $400 apiece.” Municipal revenue sharing, the money sent to towns, was not cut in dollar terms this session. In fact revenue sharing went up.

The big cuts to the towns actually occurred in fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010. Revenue sharing during those years fell steadily from $133 million in 2008 to $97 million in 2010. It bottomed out at $93 million in 2011, the last budget year of the Baldacci administration. Naturally, Berry blames Republicans, but he left out some crucial truthful facts. The harshest cuts to revenue sharing were implemented under Governor Baldacci, which Rep. Berry supported as a member of the then Democratic majority. In 2012, by contrast, revenue sharing increased to $96.9 million and in 2014 is scheduled to reach $141 million. Republicans stopped the bleeding and, for the first time since 2008, increased money going to towns.

Rep. Berry’s brand of mixing apples and oranges confuses the public with falsehoods, hoping that the public won’t check the facts only damages our democratic system and serves to deny the public the truth. We’ve come to expect this kind of distortion from Rep. Berry over the years. He led the misinformation campaign on the 102 new sales taxes mentioned earlier and the people of Maine clearly saw through the lies.

During the last legislative session, Rep. Berry spent some time with Naples resident and now candidate for the legislature, Christine Powers, showing her around the State House as his guest and explaining how things work in Augusta. What really concerns me is the political connection between Rep. Berry and Powers. That Rep. Berry has been instrumental in recruiting and helping a local candidate for the legislature should give serious cause for concern to every area resident and speaks volumes about who “Representative Powers” would look to for political advice.

The readers of The Bridgton News are completely familiar with my record of battles and successes over the last eight years in Augusta, through the over 70 articles I have written in this paper. However, in contrast, when I hear from area residents that Ms. Powers is telling them that “Rich Cebra hasn’t done anything in eight years,” I can only wonder if that kind of campaign trail misinformation is coming from the political spin doctors in Augusta, led by her friend and ally Rep. Berry.

We don’t all have to agree on all the issues. Healthy political debate is the foundation of our Republic. The Lake Region deserves honest representation in Augusta. I have worked hard to consistently be that kind of representative for all our residents. You deserve nothing less.

I have spent some time looking at the two candidates running to replace me as your representative and I can tell you this, you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.

I’ve gotten to know Laurie Mondville, candidate for the legislature, over the last few years. She will work hard for you every day. She will continue the needed reforms that reduce state government, making it more efficient, and she will work to reduce your tax burden, just as I have these last eight years.

From what I have seen of her, with her poor attendance and half-hearted effort as a selectman, and what I know of the political company she’ll keep, Christine Powers will not.

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