EDITORIAL

Michaud, Cutler must show they are more than a LePage alternative

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud speaks at a Yarmouth news conference.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud speaks at a Yarmouth news conference. Buy Photo
Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler speaks at a Portland news conference.
Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler speaks at a Portland news conference. Buy Photo
Posted May 05, 2014, at 3:47 p.m.

In six months, Maine voters will cast their votes on whether Gov. Paul LePage deserves a second term.

But the choice doesn’t end there for voters who have decided that the first-term Republican governor needs to be replaced. In the coming months, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler will have to make the case for why they deserve to replace LePage.

Both candidates have started to roll out policy documents detailing what they hope to accomplish in office, and they plan on rolling out several more. Those proposals so far offer not only a glimpse of each candidate’s agenda but what more Cutler and Michaud need to prove about themselves in order to show they deserve the job.

Cutler last month rolled out a property tax relief package that would reduce average property tax burdens for homeowners across the state by 20-40 percent, making up for the lost revenue to towns and cities by boosting state aid.

The plan included details on the mechanics of how it would happen and a town-by-town analysis on how the proposal would affect the average homeowner. Cutler also went on record with how he would pay for the property tax relief — raising the increased state aid through sales, meals, lodging and real estate transfer tax hikes.

The plan offers a number of fine ideas that would result in lower property taxes and a larger portion of the state’s tax burden being exported to the millions of tourists who visit Maine each year. We appreciate the detail and Cutler’s willingness to outline a funding strategy.

“But, isn’t the point of all this to win the election and enact an agenda?” asked Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant in a blog entry on the party’s website when Cutler released his property tax plan in mid-April. “Once again we have a Cutler ‘plan’ that explains nothing about how he’s going to tackle the political problems it will face and ultimately get the ideas written into law — and on a topic that has seen several very high profile failures.”

It’s a fair point to raise, especially on tax reform. In fact, our primary concern with Cutler’s property tax relief plan is not the quality of the proposal itself, but how Cutler plans to make it happen.

Cutler has to show in the coming months that he not only has the ability to put out well-thought-out policy proposals, but that he has the leadership ability — without the help of a political party — to build the support needed to enact his vision.

Shortly after Cutler released his property tax plan, Michaud used Earth Day as an opportunity to stress the energy vision he outlined in his “Maine Made” economic development plan, which his campaign released in February.

What does it entail? An expanded Net Energy Billing program that allows homeowners who install solar generation to recoup their investment more quickly, an incentive program that encourages utilities to connect their customers’ solar generation to the grid, and a Municipal Energy Leadership Initiative that rewards towns and cities for making their municipal operations more energy-efficient and streamlining the siting and permitting processes for renewable energy installations.

While he lays out some broad ideas, Michaud doesn’t detail in his plan what funding streams — whether from general fund tax dollars or electricity surcharges — he’ll tap to translate his ideas into reality. And to Grant’s point, he doesn’t address the politics involved in corralling support for an energy strategy that leans heavily on wind — a policy area that has proven divisive.

Neither candidate should rely on the “anyone but LePage” rallying cry. They need to show they are serious about governing, with specific policy proposals and well-articulated views about implementing them. In the end, they have to show they are more than an alternative to LePage. They have to prove they are the best option for Maine people.

 

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