Is Maine too generous in providing social services to its residents? Which government benefits should be increased or decreased?
Yes and no. We should be targeting primarily the most vulnerable members of society such as our elderly, our children and those who cannot support themselves. Our focus with able-bodied recipients should be to assist them to self-sufficiency from the moment they first meet with a caseworker. We cannot afford to be a magnet state.
Do you support expanding or raising the sales tax to lower the state income tax? Why or why not?
Our relatively high state income tax has been an impediment to growth. There are still inefficiencies and waste in state and local government. Until we get that under control we should not be thinking of raising any taxes. Broadening the sales tax would have a devastating effect on small businesses in southern and western Maine near the New Hampshire border.
The war on marijuana has been rather unsuccessful but Im concerned about the detrimental effect Q1 will have on medical marijuana. I expect this question will pass and the next legislature is going to have to deal with a number of issues. When lobbyists tailor a citizen initiative to their clients interests and bypass the legislative committee process we often get law which works more for the promoter than the people of our state.
If Question 2 passes it will give Maine the distinction of having the highest marginal income tax in the nation for couples with a taxable income just over $200,000. Only California will have a higher rate and that kicks in at a much higher income level. School financing is broken in Maine. My district, RSU #23 is a Title I district with a high percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch. We have a high percentage of retirees in our town living on fixed incomes. Yet the state only contributes about 12% of our districts budget. A far cry from the 55% contribution the people passed at referendum in 2004. If Q2 passes, our schools in OOB will receive no additional funding since our district is a minimum receiver. We should go to a flat state subsidy per student, uniform across the state.
The question on the ballot regarding background checks is not just restricted to sales. It includes virtually all transfers including loans from one lifelong friend to another. Incredibly, another background check is required to return the firearm to its owner. Every law enforcement officer Ive spoken to regarding this proposal is opposed. They see it as unenforceable and overreaching. Three quarters of Maines sheriffs are opposed to this question. The stated exceptions in the referendum are crafted so narrowly they are worthless. If enacted, this question will make criminals out of people for doing what today are harmless and innocent acts. For example, a friend with suicidal thoughts calls at 10PM and asks you to remove his guns from his home. He does not want the police involved. No firearms dealer is open to do the required background check. With multiple guns you both could face felony charges by taking his guns to save his life.
A dramatic increase in the minimum wage as proposed in the ballot question will displace many entry level workers. Were already seeing fast food restaurants replacing order takers with automated kiosks. Other restaurants where employees are tipped by the customer will see the tip credit vanish. This will dramatically increase the cost to the owners which will have to be passed along to the consumer. Many servers currently take home far in excess of $12/hour. They would likely see a pay cut. Is that what we really want here? Instead we should concentrate on creating the conditions where high paying jobs will flourish.
RCV violates Maines constitution in several ways. First, the state constitution in several places stipulates state elections are decided by a plurality of votes cast. The term plurality is a simple concept not subject to interpretation. It quite simply means the greatest number in comparison to the others. RCV also violates the provisions mandating votes be tabulated by the municipalities. RCV requires central tabulation due to the various rounds where the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. Those who voted for an eliminated candidate see their second choice counted. It is complicated, unnecessary and unconstitutional. If passed we can expect the state to be forced into costly litigation which it is likely to lose. This will happen when a candidate who has received a plurality of first choices is not declared the winner.
Should Maine prioritize law enforcement efforts to intercept drug traffickers over expanding access to substance abuse treatment, such those that incorporates medications like methadone and Suboxone?
To deal with our drug addiction crisis in Maine a balance of enforcement, education and substance abuse treatment must be found. To prioritize one aspect over the others will not solve this problem. We need to be tougher on traffickers and remove the economic incentive to bring that poison into our state. Education on the risks of the opiates and opioids is a critical component in prevention. Treatment for those afflicted must not only be effective it must be affordable to the addict and the taxpayer. My plan at Mike4ME.com includes using the criminal justice system as an incentive for users to get into treatment. Project Hope in Scarborough is a successful model which can be copied.
Should Maines constitutional officers -- the secretary of state, the attorney general, auditor and the treasurer -- continue to be elected by the Legislature or by statewide popular vote?
Most functions of the Secretary of States office, the Attorney General and Treasurer are more executive than legislative. It would be more appropriate for the people to elect these officials or for them to be gubernatorial appointees subject to the legislative confirmation process. The State Auditor more closely fits in with the Legislatures oversight role in our state government and should continue to be elected by the Legislature.
Is the size of Maines Legislature appropriate? Should the pay for legislative service be increased?
There have been various bills over the past several years which would cut the size of the legislature or lengthen the term of office making our elected representatives less responsive to the people. I would oppose any such bill. I believe our citizen legislators are compensated fairly. I see no need to raise legislative pay.
Would you support sanctioning another elected official if he or she made public comments or statements that were considered racist, offensive or prejudicial?
Recently our public discourse has coarsened to an unacceptable degree. There are numerous cases of this from both sides of the aisle. We must tread carefully here. Speech codes may be used to silence opposition and differences of opinion. Clearly there are some things such as racial discrimination and tampering with a persons ability to receive a fair trial which should meet with universal condemnation. If the offending comments were to rise to a serious enough level which harms the rights of another then yes, I would.
Would you support a so-called right to work law in Maine?
The right of any group of people to freely organize to promote similar interests is a basic human right and should be protected by law. It also follows that a person should not be forced to join an organization he or she does not wish to join.
Would you support legislation or a ballot question to allow more casinos in Maine?
I would never support a lobbyist written and developer funded ballot initiative. I would not rule out supporting a casino bill that is favorable to the community and the interests of the citizens of the state. That bill must not be crafted so that any particular developer is favored. There would have to be a competitive nature to any licensing process. State government should not act to protect any gambling enterprise from competition.
What is the biggest barrier to economic development in Maine and what can the Legislature do to address it?
High energy costs are stifling economic growth. While some alternative energy sources show promise, wind turbines will never be able to replace the capacity and reliability of natural gas and hydropower. The Legislature should embrace all forms of energy as long as they are cost effective and environmentally responsible. Add to this the fact that Maine income taxes are still relatively high and it's no wonder our state's population is declining.
Census data show Maines population is aging and decreasing, with some economists suggesting that immigration is the best way to reverse those trends. What should the state do to address this demographic trend?
Maine must become a more attractive place to do business and invest if we are to reverse those trends. Immigration may help in the short term but unless conditions are present which encourage investment and organic migration into Maine, any gains will be only temporary. Our number one export has been our youth. We educate them and they go elsewhere to find opportunity. Without good opportunities in Maine that trend will continue.
What is the most pressing issue in Maine these questions have not addressed?
Our citizen initiative process is broken. It is in serious need of reform. Special interests fueled by out of state money have hijacked the process. These special interests bypass the legislative committee process where ideas are vetted by the public, members of both major parties and independents in the Legislature. These proposed citizen initiatives are often designed to write law which the Legislature refuses to pass. Some like Question 5 are clearly unconstitutional and is one of the reasons it failed to pass in the Legislature.