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My first 2-year term as State Treasurer ends in January. I hope to have the opportunity to serve the people of Maine for another two years. In the meantime, my Treasury work will include several initiatives dealing with government spending, borrowing and debt, and their impact on our state economy and jobs. I’ll also continue to keep you informed as to how Maine state government spends your hard-earned tax dollars. Please share my Treasurer’s Blog with family, friends and co-workers, and click here to sign-up to receive them. Call Treasury at 624-7477 to schedule a time for me to speak to your group about Maine’s fiscal issues.
Sadly, an audit recently released by the federal Office of the Inspector General, requested by U.S. Senator Susan Collins, found that 87% of the inspected low-income "Section 8" apartments failed to pass basic safety and health standards, in violation of federal law. 47% of the examined units had life-threatening conditions which demanded correction within 24 hours.
Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) receives federal tax dollars to assure that 3,200 subsidized apartments in privately-owned buildings throughout the State are safe, sanitary, and livable for approximately 5,000 of Maine's most vulnerable citizens. Federal tax dollars also help pay the Section 8 apartment rents for our most disadvantaged fellow Mainers, many of whom have no other housing option but homeless shelters.
Click here to watch Wednesday's 1:59-minute TV newscast on WCSH Channel 6. Warning: the report includes unsettling photos of horrid living conditions such as exposed electrical wires, holes in ceilings, and inoperable plumbing.
At the press conference on Wednesday, two fellow MSHA board members and I also discussed a separate forthcoming forensic audit. Click here to listen to the 3:16-minute MPBN radio broadcast. We want to understand why over $7 million taxpayer dollars were spent on various computer systems with, apparently, no-bid contracts. Federal and State regulations generally do not allow MSHA to direct funds to vendors without confirming that citizens and taxpayers receive the best products/services at the lowest cost.
Many can lose when a government entity strays from its mission, and mismanages or wastes taxpayer dollars. In this case, some of our most vulnerable Maine families suffered intolerable living conditions for extended periods because Maine State Housing Authority failed to properly oversee Section 8 apartments across Maine. And, taxpayer trust was violated when $2-300,000 of Maine tax dollars might need to be returned to the federal government because of this mismanagement.
There will likely continue to be a shrinking pool of state and federal taxpayer dollars to help our fellow Mainers most at risk. We're correcting the problems at MSHA with new frugal management, complete transparency, and refocusing on the core mission of providing desperately needed housing for Maine families in need.
Maine State Treasurer
(Mr. Poliquin's comments are as State Treasurer, not as a Trustee of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System.)
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