Obama’s New Budget: This is not the Change we were Hoping for.
By Mike Reynolds
for Ability Maine
    The recent federal budget had a number of troubling cuts to critical services that will directly affect Mainers and Mainers with Disabilities. Among the cuts on the chopping block which are most troubling are the cuts to LiHeap, also known as the Low income Heating Assistance program that is used by more people in the state of Maine than any other state in the country.  With this winter being one of the coldest in recent years, and the price of oil spiking even before the unrest in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, it was not a well thought out proposal.
    According to “Living on Earth”,  a public radio program distributed by Public Radio International(PRI), cuts to LiHeap have been shown to increased risk of stroke in elderly populations as well as an increased risk in Carbon Monoxide poisoning, as many lower income individuals will often turn on an oven to get a living space heated comfortably. Maine’s Congressional delegation has been uniformly against all attempts to cut LiHeap.  Additionally, given the increases in gas prices as a result of the unrest and military action, Representative Pingree has been advocating using the stategic oil reserves to lower the cost of gas for all Mainers, and hopefully lessen the blow to the economy that the higher gas prices have brought.  Currently gas is approximately 75 cents more a gallon than a year ago and has risen over 30 cents in the past month.  Another issue for individuals on fixed incomes is the minimum delivery of fuel oil for most places within the state of Maine is 100 gallons, making a delivery about $350, or more given various fees.
    While Spring has officially arrived (and in typical Maine fashion, a snowstorm hit the first full day of Spring), the outlook might not be so good; Gas prices are usually higher in the Summer and it is still a possibility that gas prices could hit $4.00 a gallon (especially given the complete state of flux the world’s energy market’s are in after the disaster in Japan and ongoing uncertainty in the middle east.