Positions

As part of its election coverage, the Bangor Daily News posed ten questions to all state candidates for Maine’s Legislature.  Below are my responses.

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Is Maine too generous in providing social services to its residents? Which government benefits should be increased or decreased?

Maine needs both a short-term safety net and a long-term commitment to build new opportunities for self-reliance.

Most Maine people are fundamentally self-reliant and want only a decent opportunity to earn a living. National recession and the harsh realities of global capital flow have caused many Mainers to lose work through no fault of their own. Maine does a reasonable job of providing an emergency social safety net to meet short-term hardship. Ultimately, the most cost-effective course for the state is to enact policies which expand opportunities for those in need to return to self-reliance. Towards this end, I believe that education and early healthcare offer the best return.

Do you support lowering the state income tax? If so, what state spending would you cut to make up for the loss of revenue?

No. We need a fairer tax structure that doesn’t harm those who are struggling the most to earn a basic living in difficult times.

In an income tax-cut race to the bottom, Maine can’t win. We need to understand the whole balance of public revenue in Maine. In our district, people have seen property taxes increase as a direct result of curtailed state budgets. We need a fairer tax structure that doesn’t harm those who are struggling the most to earn a basic living in difficult times.

Should labor unions be allowed to require workers to pay dues as a condition of employment, regardless of whether the worker joins the union?

Yes. As long as unions are required to represent all workers, workers should pay the cost of representation.

Would you vote to expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed by the Affordable Care Act?

Maine should reduce uncompensated care to hospitals by accepting federal subsidies to expand health care coverage.

Where possible, we should be working to increase access to good, affordable, preventative healthcare for Maine people, not curtailing it. Rather than fighting the ACA, Maine should be working with the law along with its accompanying federal funds and tax credits toward expanding healthcare that better serves Maine families, hospitals, and small businesses.

What is the biggest thing Maine can do to attract more jobs to the state?

Build on Maine communities’ traditional commitment to education, entrepreneurship, and civic involvement.

To move forward, Maine needs to understand clearly its assets. These historically have been well-represented by commitment to education and a shared ethic for decency, innovation, entrepreneurship, and hard work. As a small population of tightly connected communities, civic involvement may indeed also be one of our greatest assets.

Maine must renew its commitment to the promise of all levels of education to sustain a workforce of competent, adaptable critical thinkers who can work collaboratively to solve increasingly challenging problems.

Properly managed and funded, Maine’s community and technical schools, colleges, and universities are capable of meeting our needs. Locally, established institutions like the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and the Jackson Lab are leading lights in globally significant research. And, at the root, Maine still has communities and a connected way of life that families find attractive.

We need to recognize and amplify these assets, not mischaracterize them as failures.

Should Maine legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana? If so, where should the revenues go?

Maine should study carefully the experience of Colorado before legalizing marijuana.

This is a difficult issue which the voters will almost certainly end up deciding at referendum.

On one side, the war on drugs is failing and the ravages of legal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are much more damaging.

On the other side, public health and safety advocates raise real concerns about the consequences of impairment and there is something socially repugnant about deriving public revenue from drug sales.

Should the governor be allowed to delay the sale of general obligation bonds that have been approved by voters?

Once bonds have voter approval, they should not be held as political collateral.

What should the state do to lower energy costs? What commitment should Maine make to renewable technology?

Increase conservation and efficiency. Commit in the long-term to locally-produced, sustainable energy sources.

Increased conservation and improved efficiency remain the most effective ways to reduce energy costs. It’s not glamorous policy but it’s true. To reach a stable and secure energy future, we also need to commit to the slower process of developing more efficient transportation systems and an energy infrastructure that makes increased use of locally-generated sustainable sources of power such as wind and tides. Bonds for research and technology and tax credits for private investment are appropriate mechanisms for moving Maine in this direction.

Should lawmakers make it a priority — even if it means raising taxes — to fulfill the voters’ mandate to have the state fund 55 percent of the total cost of K-12 public education?

Education remains Maine’s most essential investment.

Failing to provide sufficient state support for schools unduly shifts tax burden to municipal tax payers and exacerbates inequality of educational opportunity between wealthier and poorer Maine communities.

The school funding commission which I chair will be making recommendations to the next legislature to improve Maine’s school funding model.

Should Maine have more charter schools?

With finite funds, Maine must improve existing public educational capacity, not divert funding to new charter schools outside of direct public oversight.

The state also needs to assume responsibility for funding the existing charter schools that the state has authorized rather than depending on local school districts to subsidize them as an additional individual entitlement.

Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, and Lamoine