Erik C. Jorgensen

Erik C. Jorgensen

Erik C. Jorgensen

Democratic candidate for Maine House District 41 from Portland

Running against James H. Azzola. View your ballot →

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

Maine is a poor state with the oldest population in the country. We have consderable need. Childhood hunger and the number of uninsured people in our state have increased, not coincidentally, at a time when state support for social services has been cut dramatically. Programs like TANF and General Assistance, Drugs for the Elderly and SSI are essential safety net items that come at a modest state cost. Mainecare, our Medicaid program is a very large cost area, but that forms the basis for our healthcare system, and without it most of our hospitals would go out of business. This whole issue has become widely politicized, which is a shame. I believe we should expand Mainecare as the other New England states have done.

Do you support expanding or raising the sales tax to lower the state income tax? Why or why not?

Generally, sales tax burdens fall more heavily on lower income people, and while some careful broadening of the sales tax might lead to a tax system that is less volatile, I would do that only so as to be revenue neutral. We have already made dramatic cuts to the income tax and I think to do more will simply push the cost of providing essential services further onto the backs of property taxpayers.

Do you support marijuana legalization in Maine, as outlined in Question 1?

No

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

I am glad this is going to go to referendum, because this is truly the sort of issue that all state voters should weigh in on. My constituents have voiced their strong support for this, and I have consistently voted in support of sending it to the voters. If it receives broad support, I will work hard to make sure that the law is implemented fairly and smoothly. I have personal objections to cannabis legalization, especially in terms of potential diversion and its effects on youth. I am watching to see how legalization has worked in other states where it has happened and interested to see how issues like impaired driving and workforce issues can be addressed successfully. I do not think we have the answers yet.

Do you support raising taxes on Mainers with incomes above $200,000 to increase state aid to education, as outlined in Question 2?

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

We have failed to carry out the will of the voters who, years ago, specified that Maine should provide 55% of base education funding. We've never met that requirement, and so now we are faced with this measure. That said, I am somewhat ambivalent about this particular funding mechanism, as it raises our top marginal tax rate to a very high level that will put Maine near the top of income tax scales nationally. It's not helpful to be an outlier.

Do you support universal background checks for firearm sales, as outlined in Question 3?

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

This is a commonsense measure that does not infringe on citizens' second amendment rights. I stand with the chiefs of police in support of this measure.

Should Maine raise its minimum wage, as outlined in Question 4?

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required.)

It is impossible for a minimum wage earner working full time anywhere in the US to earn enough money for food, rent and basic necessities. I would prefer to see this measure passed as a Federal law, but in the absence of Congressional action on this issue, it falls to the states to set a reasonable minimum wage.

Do you support the initiative to use ranked-choice voting to elect state and federal officials in Maine, as outlined in Question 5?

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

In a state where there are often more than two candidates vying for an elected office, ranked choice voting offers the promise of being able to vote for your favorite candidate without helping to elect the least favorite.

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?

No. We need both treatment and vigorous enforcement, but as more and more law enforcement organizations are coming out in favor of robust treatment, it's clear that enforcement can't do the whole job by itself. Because of cuts to MaineCare, we are often unable to pay for treatment for people who need and are seeking it, which is a tragic problem. Medication assisted therapy has been proven to be a very effective strategy.

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?

I support the current system, which has worked for decades. I am not convinced that we need to have three more expensive statewide elections that would require fundraising from parties who would face potential conflicts of interest.

Is the size of Maines Legislature appropriate? Should the pay for legislative service be increased?

The Maine legislature is, like those in all New England states, a large one. The argument is that this provides better democracy and representation. I do think that the size of the legislature could likely be reduced. The extremely low pay for legislators is a problem - very few people in mid-career can afford to do this job.

Would you support sanctioning another elected official if he or she made public comments or statements that were considered racist, offensive or prejudicial?

Yes, I think such actions would be appropriate in rare circumstances. The Governor, for example, has crossed too many lines.

Would you support a so-called right to work law in Maine?

Candidate did not answer this question.

Would you support legislation or a ballot question to allow more casinos in Maine?

I don't think Maine's casino gambling experiment has gone too well. The bulk of the money has flowed to out of state investors, and Maine has sold its casino licenses far too inexpensively. I don't want to see expanded gaming, but would consider supporting a tribal-sponsored facility.

What is the biggest barrier to economic development in Maine and what can the Legislature do to address it?

The aging / shrinking workforce is, hands down, Maine's greatest economic challenge. We need to do more with the people we have while attracting others to come here. To address that, we need to do better educating adults who have some college but no degree who are currently underemployed; we need to continue to look to ways to get new people from out of state to study at our higher ed system (and entice them to stay here); and we need to embrace our immigrants who offer rich talent, a string work ethic, and badly-needed diversity to the state.

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 should absolutely harness the power and talents of our immigrants, many of whom are eminently qualified and highly educated. Instead of immigrant-bashing and fear mongering, we should be concentrating efforts around adult education, credential transfers and fostering of small immigrant-owned businesses. These are people who have a great deal to offer, who are here now, and who want to be here and who want to work. They are a great asset, and should be embraced. They may require some extra support at first, but in the long run they will cost us far less than trying to attract others here

What is the most pressing issue in Maine these questions have not addressed?

Climate change has the potential to completely shift our resource economy, from skiing, to maple syrup production, to wild blueberries and timber. Fishing is threatened by warming seawater temperatures and dangerous acidification; and sea level rise threatens large scale property destruction as well as disruptions to many of the state's key communities. We need to be doing more to plan for it.