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Governor’s Address: Let’s work together and do the right thing for our seniors

Over the last seven and a half years, the Legislature and I have had many disagreements over process, policy and approach to governing. But the true value of our republic is that, although we disagree, we can still move our state and our country forward.

While differences on tax reform, welfare policy and economic development may create friction between political parties and branches of government, there is one area where I hope and believe we all share a similar passion – care and compassion for our elderly.

I sent a letter this week to the legislative leadership asking them to work with me to protect our seniors from losing their homes. We will not always agree on what compassion looks like, but I believe that ensuring seniors can remain in their homes is something we should mutually agree on.

Currently, on the table in the Senate, there is a Governor’s bill, LD 1629: An Act To Protect the Elderly from Tax Lien Foreclosures, that is of extraordinary importance for low-income elderly Mainers who own their own homes outright and experience a change in circumstances.

This bill will protect seniors who, usually because of a health crisis or death of a spouse, have not been able to keep up with their property taxes. Under current law, municipalities can foreclose on them, selling the house for just the taxes owed, or even selling the house at a profit, and the municipality keeps the entire amount of the sale.

We don’t let banks do this. Banks must sell at market value and return any remaining proceeds over to the homeowner. I want our towns to be held to the same standard because it is the right thing to do.

I will not pretend this bill resolves the challenges, but it’s a valuable and a necessary move forward.

As I have talked about this issue, I have received several calls in the last few months alone from constituents seeking my assistance to help them avert a potential foreclosure on their home or from constituents whose homes have already gone through foreclosure.

These are real people losing everything. Some lose just their home, while other have lost not only the home, but all their possessions in it. This is not the way we should be treating our elders.

What I propose will ensure that municipalities receive all monies owed to them and the elderly individuals will receive the remaining equity in their home.

I know many small towns already are compassionate in circumstances where they face foreclosing on an elderly resident. This bill should not be an affront to towns and town officials who do it right. It should be welcomed by them.

This bill is meant for those instances where compassion is not being exercised. This bill does not prohibit the foreclosure of any property, it just requires a more thoughtful approach.

It is the right thing to do, and I urge the Legislature to pass the amended bill when they continue the special session next week. I encourage you, the listener, to call your legislators and urge them to pass the amended bill as well.

None of our elderly Mainers deserve to lose their home, their life’s equity, and their dignity over a few thousand dollars. We can fix this.

Thank you.

Paul LePage


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