- Gifford’s ice cream makes its Capitol Hill debut
- Preliminary analysis shows York River a good candidate for ‘Wild and Scenic’ status
- It could be colder. Just ask Angus King.
- LePage calls for ‘thorough review’ of proposed Amtrak layover facility in Brunswick
- Bill would give Maine Legislature ‘final say’ on allowing another national park
On the Issues
How would you balance the federal budget/reduce the federal deficit?
I believe our national debt problem should not serve as a partisan football. Our debt is a significant threat to national security. But, it's more than that — it is immoral to leave this debt to the next generation. We have no right to spend the money and leave them to pay the bills. There are two realistic bi-partisan proposals that I have been reviewing: the Simpson-Bowles report and the Domenici-Rivlin commission plan. I firmly believe that the data and analysis in these plans can form the basis of a solution, but it won't be easy. While I may not agree on all the details, I think the overall approach they take makes a great deal of sense: cut spending in an intelligent way, simplify the tax code, cut tax rates and eliminate most loopholes to generate additional revenue. Such a combination can put us on a trajectory toward serious and substantial deficit reduction.
What steps do you support to reform Social Security and Medicare?
Social Security was put on a sound financial basis in 1986, when the retirement of the baby boomers was anticipated and accounted for. For this reason, no major changes are needed to assure its long-term stability. Most studies recommend relatively minor changes–a gradually phased-in increase of the retirement age to 69 by 2075, for example–and an increase in the base upon which Social Security taxes are applied above the current cut-off of $106,000 in annual income.
What we don’t need, and what I oppose, is any effort to privatize or means-test Social Security. The program is too important to too many people (over 300,000 in Maine) to make it subject to the ups and downs of Wall Street.
Medicare, on the other hand, is in much more immediate financial trouble, principally because of the huge increases in medical costs over the past 20 years which have affected private insurance as well. I believe the long-term answer for Medicare (as well as the rest of our system) is to transition away from our current fee-for-service system toward one that pays healthcare providers for keeping us well instead of only treating us when we are sick. This means more emphasis on primary case and prevention rather than only paying for procedures. In fact, a pilot program to do just this is now getting underway in the Bangor area under the leadership of Eastern Maine Health.
A second change to current Medicare policy which would help substantially with its finances would be to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices just as is currently done by the VA and the states under Medicaid.
Would you sign a pledge to never raise federal taxes? Why or why not?
I won't sign pledges that handcuff my ability to work independently for Maine; e.g. the tax pledge would make it impossible to find a realistic solution to our debt.
How should health care be reformed?
I believe that health care reform must focus on access to services and reduction of costs. I supported the Affordable Care Act, but understand that it is not perfect. The ACA focuses primarily upon access through insurance reform, which is important, but steps must now be taken to do something about the cost of care. Solutions must be found to fix this failing system in order to keep it from breaking completely and leaving Americans unable to afford the health services they need regardless of their insurance status. We must, therefore, reduce the cost of healthcare in part by moving toward outcome-based models of compensation, rather than fee-for-service; pilot programs to this effect are supported under the ACA, which could turn out to be very important in the long-run. Further, there needs to be a much greater focus on primary and preventative care.
Do you support a woman’s right to an abortion?
I am pro-choice & support a woman's ability to make decisions about her health care with her choice of advisors; government should not intrude into this process.
In Congress, would you support DOMA or legislation to allow civil unions or gay marriage?
I believe DOMA is an ill-conceived law that intrudes into matters constitutionally left to the states. Congress should not be deciding who can marry whom.
Should the federal government have a role in K-12 education?
Yes, but it should be limited to funding existing mandates and supporting research into what works, not telling states and school districts how to run local schools.
What are the benefits of school choice? Vouchers? Should they be available for private and religious schools?
Public schools have historically been the linchpin of democracy. I am not opposed to the concept of charter schools, but am a skeptic: charter schools have the potential to draw public support away from public schools. However, as with every issue, I am focused on the facts and am willing to listen to any solution that can help improve our education system.
Do you believe climate change is happening? Do humans contribute to it? What should Congress do to address the problem?
I believe climate change is happening, and humans can play a critical role in either aggravating its presence or limiting its acceleration. I am committed to protecting the integrity of Maine's environment and that of the Nation — and to providing access to it. People love Maine because of its natural beauty — protecting our environment is not only the right thing to do, it's also smart business. I support strong enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, two laws crafted by Maine Senator Ed Muskie, and I also support carbon-reduction initiatives and increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards. I oppose drilling in ANWR — it has a relatively small supply of oil that would come at great environmental risk to extract. Further, any new developments in the energy industry — like fracking for natural gas, and running the Keystone Pipeline through the U.S. — should be subject to all appropriate environmental safeguards to protect both the American people and the American land.
What should the country’s energy policy look like?
I believe that the people of Maine spend too much of their hard-earned income on energy costs, about 85% of which goes to oil. Energy conservation, energy efficiency, and domestic energy production will lead to a realistic American energy policy — for too long the US has not had a comprehensive energy policy. A "Made-in-America" approach will create jobs and keep our energy dollars from going to places like the Middle East. For a realistic American energy policy, there is no silver bullet — we must look to a variety of resources and, in the near term, our "Made-in-America" energy policy will be a combination of increased efficiency, smarter use of fuels, and increased domestic production of oil (necessary during the transition away from oil), gas, and renewables. We must develop a comprehensive, forward-thinking approach that focuses on low-cost energy, that keeps our dollars in America, and minimizes long-term adverse environmental consequences.
King said Maine has the second-highest gun ownership rate in the country and one of the lowest gun crime rates. It’s hard to find hard statistics on gun ownership rates, but the numbers we found puts Maine in the middle — about 40 percent of Mainers own guns, according to a 2001 survey, as opposed to nearly 60 percent of people in Wyoming and about 12 percent in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Hawaii has the lowest gun ownership rate, at 8.7 percent.
Regarding King’s statement that Maine has one of the lowest gun crime rates, it’s hard to get reliable statistics on that because of the relatively low number of homicides in Maine. The statistics we have show that about half of Maine’s homicides are gun-related and that Maine does indeed haveone of the lowest gun homicide rates in the country.
King mentioned students graduating college with more than $100,000 in loan debt. The national average student debt is $25,250. In Maine, students graduate with an average of $29,983 in debt. That’s the second-highest debt load in the country, but far below $100,000, which King seemed to imply was normal.