Is Maine too generous in providing social services to its residents? Which government benefits should be increased or decreased?
We need to insure that those who are struggling through no fault of their own have the resources available to lift themselves out of poverty. Some reforms are needed in the way we provide social services to give those struggling incentives to better themselves and work to their fullest capacities. This would include, for example, a graduated system of benefits that would decrease proportionately as someone goes back to work or finishes school, and not just abruptly cuts off at a certain level, disincentivising against any working, even if part time.
Maine is extremely generous with social services. If Mainers continue to want to offer these services, we all need to understand that many of the problems Maine has economically will continue. Others from out of state will seek moving to Maine to specifically enjoy our generous social services with no interest in contributing to our society. It's important for our state government to continuously study how beneficial our social services are to our citizens and find ways to de-incentivize people making life choices that keep them on social services for longer than they need it.
Do you support expanding or raising the sales tax to lower the state income tax? Why or why not?
We need to do all that we can to lower the tax burden for lower and middle class working families. Lowering the income tax and raising the sales tax will only increase the overall tax burden on those least able to afford it. This would also likely lead to an increase in local property taxes, further increasing the tax burden for working families.
I'd rather pay a higher sales tax rate than income tax. Sales tax allows people more choice and freedom on how much of our money flows to state government. With income tax, there is no choice. However, it's important that whether we focus on the income tax or sales tax as the driving force of the state revenue, we continually study how much money our state government actually needs
Unfortunately, the Maine Legislature has had many years to find ways to meet the State's obligation, passed by Maine Voters, to fund education at 55%, and has failed to do so. I am open to considering other plans to fund education at 55%, but, thus far, no other plan has passed the Legislature.
Before talking about the end-result solution, the problem being increased drug overdoses in Maine, I'd like to talk about the underlying problem. Why are heroin and opioids so easily available and causing so many overdoses? Is it simply cheaper and more available than before or is it more about the growing hopelessness and mental health issues of people who get hooked on them? I'm more interested in that conversation.
Is the size of Maines Legislature appropriate? Should the pay for legislative service be increased?
I have no strong opinion about the size of the Legislature. I do think the pay should be increased, given the amount of time involved, so that people from all walks of life can have the opportunity to serve if they want.
100% no and yes. The size of the Maine Legislature is completely ridiculous for a state of our population. I support a unicameral body of around 100 elected officials. That way, you can increase the pay to around $25,000 per year and still save money on salaries. A higher, reasonable salary for the amount of work as a legislator would open the doors to many, many other Maine citizens to run for office. We should make elected office something our best and brightest are able to serve, in the best interest of Maine. Currently, only citizens with certain family and financial situations are able to run.
What is the biggest barrier to economic development in Maine and what can the Legislature do to address it?
The biggest barrier to economic development is the lack of skilled workers to fill the demand, and a lack of incentives to train and maintain workers in the areas in need. The Legislature can address this with support for educational programs that provide the training needed for today's job market, and that also provides incentives such as student debt forgiveness for those who agree to live and work in Maine, especially in under served areas.
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?
See my answer above concerning incentives and student debt relief
Continue to create vibrant areas that attract young people. Study other states of our size and see what kind of business and recreation environment they have created. The beaches are nice but Maine needs more year-round attractiveness to younger people to have them move here, not just visit.
What is the most pressing issue in Maine these questions have not addressed?
Property tax relief for Seniors on fixed incomes. We need to find ways to allow our Seniors age in place, in their homes, and not be forced to move from their family homes because they cannot afford the property taxes
School consolidation (the RSU law) was a disaster in some communities, including my own. Maine needs to re-examine how to best consolidate schools to save money but also benefit all communities involved.