On the Issues
How do you propose the Legislature closes Maine’s budget gap?
MaineCare eligibility should be stabilized across-the-board at the income levels established in the Affordable Care Act, and intensive care management should be adopted for enrollees with the highest use of medical services. Outside experts should be retained to identify categories of expenditures (demographics, diagnoses, treatments) where Maine pays more than national averages, enabling further targeting of cost-containment in MaineCare. Maine's extensive list of tax exemptions, deductions, exclusions and credits should be scaled back, allowing both lower tax rates, and less "back door" spending through the tax code. The tax structure should also be reformed to take better advantage of Maine's large non-resident population. This can be done by lowering income-based taxes relative to consumption-based taxes, and by expanding the homestead exemption and circuit breaker programs in place of more costly across-the-board tax relief measures.
Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal in Maine?
Yes. Marriage should be a civil right for any loving couple that wants to make a marriage commitment, and with all of the legal rights associated with marriage.
Do you support school choice?
Limited. The recent legislation allowing a maximum of ten charter schools over the next ten years is a positive developing for Maine's education system, allowing alternative learning environments that may work better for certain students. But I oppose legislation that would open up school choice more broadly, and particularly if it allowed public funding for private and religious schools.
Do you think Maine's school consolidation program has been successful?
The top-down mandate to consolidate school districts failed to appreciate the "quality of life" value that most Mainer's place on self-governed communities. While the average size of our school districts is small, and administrative service-sharing or consolidation makes financial sense in many areas, it should have been marketed and facilitated as a cost-saving opportunity where applicable, and not as a statewide mandate.
Do you think Maine should expand MaineCare as proposed by the president under the Affordable Care Act?
Yes. Absent a universal national system, Medicaid should become the baseline health insurance product for those with incomes up to 133 percent of poverty, as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act. Those with incomes above this level would purchase health insurance in the private market, facilitated through Maine's health insurance exchange. The exchange is the best chance we have in Maine to reintroducing affordable private health insurance products into the Maine marketplace.
What is the biggest thing Maine can do to attract more jobs to the state?
Building Maine's economy requires that we remove certain impediments that businesses face in locating their operations here, while at the same time protecting the magnetic value of our environment, sense of community, and culture. We need fiscal responsibility in government, but accompanied by key investments in education and innovation. We need competitive income tax rates and health insurance costs. When entrepreneurs can find in Maine an available workforce with needed skills, tax rates and health insurance costs that compare favorably with those in other states, and easy access to investment capital, Maine's economic growth could be dramatic. But we also need to remain a state with strong communities, where people want to come to build their lives and careers.
Do you support lowering the state income tax? What state spending would you cut to make up for the loss of revenue?
rnYes. While Maine's highest income tax rate will drop next year from 8.5 to 7.95 percent, it is still noticeably higher than other states. I recommend two approaches to lowering this rate further. First, Maine's extensive list of tax exemptions, deductions, exclusions and credits should be scaled back, allowing a lower tax rate to be imposed on a broader tax base. Second our tax structure should be reformed to take better advantage of Maine's large non-resident population, reducing income-based taxes (which are paid primarily by residents) relative to consumption-based taxes (which are paid by residents and non-residents proportionately, based on the amount of time they spend in Maine).
Are Maine's public assistance benefits too generous? How should they be changed?
The eligibility rules for public assistance in Maine are reasonable, but the incentives and assistance toward self-sufficiency are inadequate. To the extent of people's functional ability, every person on public assistance should be on a clear path toward self-improvement, education and workforce training, so that for all who are able, public assistance is a pathway toward independence, rather than a perpetual way of life.
What should the state do to lower energy costs?
Maine has many ongoing energy production and distribution initiatives that try to take advantage of diverse resources and diverse technologies. While this diversity is generally positive, it has been advanced more as "industrial scale" rather than "local scale," and with benefits extending regionally rather than within Maine specifically. I would like to see more attention to localized production for localized use, economizing on longer-range distribution losses, and benefiting the businesses and communities where the production takes place. A continued focus on conservation is also a first-priority in energy policy.
Should Maine place more restrictions on abortion?