Is Maine too generous in providing social services to its residents? Which government benefits should be increased or decreased?
No. Maine must enforce its law to prevent welfare fraud, whether its a persistent nickel-and-diming the system by the recipients or its the million-dollar fraud by certain providers. But government programs do good for the Mainers who need help. The executive of the Good Shepherd Food Bank, for instance, reminded legislators that the best tool to fight hunger in Maine is still the SNAP program (food stamps). While striving for efficiency, and helping folks to leave the welfare system, we must not forget how effective and necessary these efforts are to people in need.
Do you support expanding or raising the sales tax to lower the state income tax? Why or why not?
I'm open to looking at it, if the return was convincingly helpful to all. But I believe in progressive taxation. The graduated income tax, in which every taxpayer is assessed the same dollar amount of tax on the same dollar amount of income, and in which bracket rates get progressively higher for increased wealth, is the fairest distribution of the tax burden, with more, in total, being contributed to society by those who benefit most competing in society. Government services are necessary, including safety, education, and care of the needy and elderly, and the taxes to pay for them are necessary, but we must address the needs of Mainers with as low a tax burden as is responsibly possible. Eliminating income taxes in favor of consumption taxes alone would put greater burden on hardworking lower and middle income people already struggling to get ahead, and would provide a windfall to those most able to pay. If that were not true, why would they care? We cannot underbid states like Florida, which has no income tax. The income gap between rich and poor is the largest of our lifetime. Struggling Mainers with modest income shouldn't be burdened with a more regressive tax structure. That said, show me the numbers.
Very simply, for me health and safety trump recreational use. I understand the libertarian argument, and I know that its use is widespread. As a 39-year schoolteacher, I never saw marijuana as a positive in student lives. I believe drug enforcement has become a great burden and oversized expense, but I'm not convinced that legalization would be a responsible action in the best interest of our communities.
Yes. The people must have the power to take action when its government fails to do so, and initiatives provide that opportunity. That said, I much prefer the legislative process to get a fair, precisely-worded law, that, in this case, would be improved being more incremental in both targets and tax burden. The current percent of state educational funding is not enough. Maine voters have already decided that 55% should be underwritten by the state. In unintended but logical consequences, it forced Gov. Baldaccis school consolidation plan to make it 55% of a smaller pie. But the state still has no plan to achieve 55%.
Equality of educational opportunity, an American promise, is greater achieved when Maine increases its share of overall K-12 essential spending. Helping (1) Maine children, and (2) their struggling parents who bear the burden of education costs in lean school budgets, decided increasingly by (3) older voters without schoolchildren who need local property tax relief, is indeed our responsibility.
About 12,000 Americans are killed by other Americans by gunfire each year, and most reasonable people believe guns belong only in responsible hands. When we allow current laws to leave 40% of gun transactions unfiltered by background checks, as reported, then we become participants in enabling guns to easily get into the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Most responsible gun owners, including me, and most law enforcement officers, support background checks. Hunters and those wanting self-protection need not worry. The 2nd amendment is not in jeopardy, but the lives of many unfortunate men, women, and children are. If we can reduce this carnage, then we should be responsible and do so. This inconvenience is small compared to the dividend.
I will be voting for the minimum wage question because it will raise the state's minimum from $7.50 to $9.00 an hour in January, 2017. It's long overdue. I spoke on the floor of the House to support passage of the last minimum wage increase in 2006, when it was $6.50. It passed by a single vote. We increased it 25 cents per year until it reached $7.50. But attempts to raise the minimum have been squashed by powerful forces for seven straight years, refusing even modest increases. If this measure gets an overdue increase into law, I believe that's good for Maine people, both for workers and those who benefit from consumer purchases. If the Maine economy falters, and the built-in escalation to 2020 is not an advised course of action, particularly for small businesses, then the legislature can make an adjustment
Not being retroactive, my enthusiasm for RCV wanes as I consider the future. Despite my respect for so many of its supporters, I have major reservations.
1. It allows equivocation, the failure to make a strong decision for a singular and only choice where one stands with the best candidate.
2. It allows equal status for throw-away votes, with voters selecting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th choices which may or may not be selected with care, and certainly invites decision-making based on less knowledge.
3. It empowers and encourages candidates to avoid primaries, get a ticket to the finals in November, and have a better chance at victory versus those that subjected themselves to the vetting by voters in primaries.
4. It makes a recount far more complex, and will erode trust in announced results.
5. However courts decide, it seems to fly in the face of one person, one vote. Does multiple votes for one position, with only the lowest vote-getters (perhaps of extreme or fringe candidates) selected to be added until a majority is gained, violate equality under the law?
6. Electronic complexity erodes trust in the result. Maine law requires paper ballots for physical evidence. In this era of demonstrated cyberhacking into elections, is making our elections more complex and dependent on electronics necessary or responsible?
7. As a short cut to a run-off election, it is seen as more efficient. But efficiency is not the ultimate value; otherwise we have ten-year terms and vote for future elections now. Why wait?
8. A run-off is simpler to understand, and cleaner in result.
9. Run-offs will have additional cost, but perhaps a necessary one. RCV will have additional costs, and will be a nightmare for the Secretary of State to do recounts in Augusta.
10. The two-party system, through primaries, caucuses, conventions of elected delegates who nominate the party nominee with authority from voters back home, has provided a winnowing process by which a participatory democratic process has evolved to a simpler final decision between two candidates. The voter then looks at the choice, determines his/her own priorities, and votes.
It works, it is constantly being refined and made more democratic, and it would be unfortunate to adopt a system that undermines this hard-won system.
11. Weakened parties means fewer face-to-face meetings and stronger influence of the media and technology, so who is funding this effort?
Those are my concerns at this time.
Majority rule is most necessary as a mandate in an executive race, and that's where we should begin...with a run-off election.
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?
Churchill said democracy is flawed but the best of all political systems. Legislative selection of these core positions is a similar circumstance, because the alternatives are worse. Statewide elections cost millions of dollars for each candidate, and who wants a prospective attorney general soliciting contributions from rich businessmen or corporations who s/he may have to prosecute? I held this position for years, but Donald Trump's donation to the Florida Attorney General, who decided against prosecution, is just a recent example of an unholy practice. Gubernatorial appointment also is flawed. Years ago I witnessed a heated phone call in which an attorney general refused to give a legal opinion that was what the governor wanted, and I knew at the time that was unlikely to happen if the AG's job had been in the hands of the executive.
Is the size of Maines Legislature appropriate? Should the pay for legislative service be increased?
I sponsored a constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the legislature from 151 and 35 to 132 and 33, with four house districts equating a senate district, saving millions in redistricting the senate. It failed in the face of Republican opposition. A separate bill was to have used part of that savings to boost legislative wages a small amount. Regarding size, legislative committees must have enough members to hold professional lobbyists accountable, so there is such a thing as too small. Regarding pay, people with dependents can't afford to serve in the legislature, and that leaves over-representation of the wealthy, the retired, and the very young. Pay should be increased in a package that that includes the governor, taking into consideration the pay of Maine working people.
Would you support a so-called right to work law in Maine?
Right-to-work is so-called by its adherents only. I support the right of all people to work and to bargain collectively in good faith with employers. If you look at this country before and after FDR, you see how collective bargaining raised the standard of living for all workers, union and non-union, and created a middle class, a consumption class, that helped entrepreneurs make fortunes and brought unprecedented American prosperity. Unions are weak today, and the pay gap between rich and poor has increased correspondingly.
What is the biggest barrier to economic development in Maine and what can the Legislature do to address it?
Two problems stand out. This governor has declared us open for business and then loudly denounced the state as unfriendly to business, has created an unfriendly political environment that worries business, and has been a detriment as ambassador for our state. Second, the federal government's inability to set proper national standards allows corporations to pit states against each other, and poorer states, in order to compete, offer concessions that rob their neediest citizens, young and old, of much needed resources. The good news is that Maine has a dedicated workforce with a good work ethic (as told to me by an out-of-state corporate executive), collaborative leaders who want to work in partnership, a breathtakingly beautiful state, and a quality of life sought after by many out-of-staters, including families of corporate executives. Incentives to corporations must be tied to accountability that promised economic benefits are realized.
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?
Im very concerned about the rapid increase of our 65-and-above population in the next 15 years, our exodus of young people, and our very slow in-migration. Therefore, helping seniors to extend their active lives as contributors to community through improved health and safety, and planning of sufficient transportation and efficient housing, will not only enhance the quality of their lives, but the continued utilization of their accumulated knowledge and skills is an invaluable resource that will be instrumental in meeting what is sure to be a progressively greater economic and social need in our state. I also favor incentives, such as tax credits to offset educational debt, for young professionals to serve the needs of Maine citizens. Immigration must be part of our answer, and targeted education and training to meet needs must be planned and supported.
What is the most pressing issue in Maine these questions have not addressed?
A crisis continues. In a difficult session, the legislature came together to confront the deadly opioid epidemic by passing funding for law enforcement, treatment, and recovery, including peer recovery programs in underserved areas. Opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone, accounted for 2 out of 5 overdose deaths last year; we passed legislation to prevent their overprescription and abuse. We also passed legislation to facilitate local LEAD programs, in which law enforcement may divert alleged low-level offenders into community-based treatment programs rather than the court system, reducing both recidivism and pre-trial costs to jails. Law enforcement is imperative to fight trafficking, but they, too, realize that to effectively confront this crisis, education and the proper treatment are the keys to a better future. State money must be joined by federal dollars so that medically-proven vivitrol, methadone, and buprenorphine can be used as tools against addiction. Emergency treatment should include life-saving ,overdose-reversing Naloxone (Narcan), and thats why both Ds and Rs overrode the Governors veto. All this aside, we must do more until we have a comprehensive strategy to maximize success.