Is Maine too generous in providing social services to its residents? Which government benefits should be increased or decreased?
We need to protect the social safety net for those who truly need it. We do them a disservice when we tolerate welfare abuse, and fortunately we were finally able to persuade Democrats in the Legislature to join us in passing meaningful welfare reform.
We have all heard or know directly of cases where people are gaming the system and have made welfare a way of life. We have an obligation to take care of the elderly and the disabled, and to provide temporary assistance to those who have fallen on difficult times. Those people should not have to compete for limited resources with those who are abusing the system.
Do you support expanding or raising the sales tax to lower the state income tax? Why or why not?
I do not believe that asking Maine citizens to surrender more of their paychecks to the government is the right answer. We should be looking at ways to lower the tax burden for all Mainers, including the property tax. We dont have a tax problem in Augusta, we have a spending problem. We need to cut spending, and to do that we need to eliminate unnecessary pet projects and truly prioritize state spending.
Question 2 is a deeply flawed proposal. Most alarming to me is the fact that smaller school districts, many in Waldo County, would receive little or no additional education funding under this proposal while larger districts such as Portland would get millions. There is also no guarantee that the money raised by this new tax will actually get into the classrooms where its needed. Furthermore, over the past six years, we have made substantial progress in lowering the income tax burden for all Mainers. Passage of this initiative would represent a huge step back by creating the second highest tax rate in the nation here in Maine. We need to create incentives for people to move to Maine and locate their businesses here, and this proposal would do just the opposite.
Working with the business community, the Maine Senate this year passed a compromise bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $10.00. Unfortunately, it fell victim to partisan politics and did not become law. I look forward to the upcoming session where we can address this issue again should the ballot proposal fail.
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?
We need a balanced approach to combating the drug epidemic that includes increased law enforcement, treatment and education. I was proud to sponsor emergency legislation during the last session that provided funding for all of these. But this is only one step in addressing this crisis. Much more needs to be done.
What is the biggest barrier to economic development in Maine and what can the Legislature do to address it?
High energy costs continue to be a major barrier to bringing more businesses to Maine. We must expand the availability of natural gas around the state and find other sources of inexpensive energy for Maine homes and businesses.
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?
We need to do a better job in competing with other states as a destination for young people. That means bringing more jobs to Maine which would require reducing our tax burden and lowering our energy costs. Maine is blessed with the best workers and most natural beauty in the nation, but we need to give young people a reason to relocate here. I believe we can do it by adopting the right policies in Augusta.
What is the most pressing issue in Maine these questions have not addressed?
Maine has a critical shortage of emergency responders, particularly in rural areas. I am working on legislation that would create a new class of community responders who have sufficient training to respond to emergency calls and provide treatment until EMTs or paramedics arrive on the scene.