On the Issues
How do you propose the Legislature closes Maine’s budget gap?
Any proposal focused on closing Maine’s budget gap should begin by setting certain priorities. As more and more evidence becomes available, it is apparent that jobs and job opportunities in any area of the state tend to follow overall education levels. Therefore any future budget cuts should keep in mind that preserving funding for education, the state’s aging infrastructure and healthcare services for the states neediest are essential. Real budget reform requires hard work and compromise. We should work together to look for solutions to help make state government work better, work smarter and more efficiently.
Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal in Maine?
My wife Mary and I have been married for nearly 29 years. I personally see no reason to deny anyone an opportunity to enjoy the happiness and commitment that I have enjoyed all these years. The question before the voters of Maine is whether to allow same-sex couples to be legally committed under Maine law. It is also understood that no church is required to perform a same-sex marriage if it is against the beliefs of that church.
Do you support school choice?
Any legislation that funnels money away from our already underfunded public school system works against all of us. School choice as has been proposed, has tax dollars following the student to a new school (charter or otherwise), depriving that student's local school of necessary funding. That lack of funding works to reduce educational opportunities for the remaining students in the local school, as costs remain the same. We still have to pay the faculty, heat the schools and keep the lights on. There’s also a fairness issue, underprivileged students do not have the same opportunities to be transported to other educational facilities by their parents that families in a better financial situation have.
Do you think Maine's school consolidation program has been successful?
Needless to say we are all in favor of reducing administrative costs when possible and putting money into the classroom instead. In terms of Maine school consolidation, we are talking about a difficult issue where a one-size-fits-all set of regulations doesn’t work. It’s probably time to go back to the drawing board on this one. We can do better.
Do you think Maine should expand MaineCare as proposed by the president under the Affordable Care Act?
The whole purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to make health insurance available to as many people as possible. An important factor in the act is the implementation of Health Insurance Exchanges by the states. These Exchanges would facilitate competition by allowing consumers to do direct comparison shopping for health insurance. In terms of MaineCare expansion, prior to this last Legislature, Maine had a history of moving in a positive direction which would have helped to facilitate provisions under the Affordable Care Act. We should continue down this path that would allow us to draw down federal funds to help pay for preventive healthcare drug coverage for seniors and to provide young families with the preventive health services they need.
What is the biggest thing Maine can do to attract more jobs to the state?
Job creation is one of the most difficult challenges facing the State of Maine today. In the short term the state could move ahead with bonds for research and development to attract industries that could provide quality jobs that include competitive benefits. It’s also apparent that the state's infrastructure requires upgrades and improvements that would also create immediate jobs. Another essential component to job creation is strengthening our public education system. A recent article in the BDN emphasized that in those regions of the state where the income and education levels are a little higher there tend to be more job opportunities. Therefore investing in as education is essential to creating more job opportunities and a well-trained labor force.
Do you support lowering the state income tax? What state spending would you cut to make up for the loss of revenue?
Tax fairness is another key issue. Income tax reductions tend to benefit top end wage earners most. Whereas reductions in property taxes, sales tax, and even gas taxes would tend to benefit those lower on the income scale most. It’s important at this point in time to move ahead with comprehensive tax reform in Maine. It's past time for a tax reform package that takes tax fairness into consideration so that everyone pays their fair share and there’s more money left in the pockets of our middle-class.
Are Maine's public assistance benefits too generous? How should they be changed?
Public assistance programs such as TANF and General Assistance are necessary programs for people in need with a focus on returning them to work. However, these programs require strict supervision and structural reform. We have to deal with dishonesty and fraud where we find it. We also have responsibility to look for efficiencies by streamlining the system with an eye toward saving money. Ideas being tossed around might include one-stop shopping; where applicants might be required to visit regional assistance centers. These centers could collect all necessary information from applicants in one central database. From here counselors could make recommendations for the applicants that might include housing, TANF, possible Veterans benefits and General Assistance when necessary.
What should the state do to lower energy costs?
In the short term the State should involve itself in studying various alternative energy sources that include natural gas, tidal and wind energy, as well as, working to make our aging housing stock and transportation systems more energy efficient.
Many scientists consider offshore Maine to be the Saudi Arabia of wind. Keeping that in mind, our wind resources (especially our offshore wind resources) have to be considered as part of our overall energy mix. There should also be serious consideration for tidal energy production in a state that has extreme tides available. As environmental impact studies are continually being developed, it seems that offshore wind and tidal energy are among the best energy alternatives for Maine.
Should Maine place more restrictions on abortion?
The issue of a woman’s right to choose was resolved years ago by the Supreme Court. I am in complete agreement with President Clinton who said at this year’s Democratic National Convention that "abortions should be safe, legal, and rare."