Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Reed Act... and the controversial Maine mural

Maine has made national news again. A few days ago, the governor had a mural removed from the headquarters of the Maine Department of Labor. The reason: it appears members of Maine's business community felt the mural depicted Unions in a most favorable light... and that was not business-friendly. Now the U.S. Department of Labor wants Maine to return federal grant money which helped fund the artwork. 

At the Maine Department of Labor's website I found some general information about the Reed Act under "Frequently asked questions, at #9, paragraph #2. Under the "Reed Act Provisions of Title IX of the Social Security Act," at pg 17, Section H.1 explains that capital improvements to state-owned buildings are allowed if the building is used for administering unemployment insurance programs; it also mentions recapturing the federal government’s share of the market value of the improvement if the use ends. 

There's more about the Reed Act at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Under certain circumstances, the funds transferred from the U.S. Department of Labor to a state's unemployment trust fund can be used to pay extended or emergency benefits, and even regular benefits. The United States government collects money directly from businesses, through legislation called FUTA - Federal Unemployment Tax Act, and passes most of it along to the individual states.  

Anxious to put the issue to rest, the Republican party in Northern Maine is trying to raise money to pay the feds back, so the governor can get back to redecorating. I have an idea: put the mural back up to avoid paying the federal government back, but put it in upside down to send a message about the whole affair. First of all, I think the federal government should not have approved use of Reed Act funds by Maine, then being governed by John Baldacci, for the expensive artwork; it obviously was not essential to the administration of unemployment insurance benefit programs.        

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