I believe in the Golden Rule Do unto others as you would have done to you. With more than 20 percent of our people living without secure access to food, with infants dying at a rate that now ranks us among the states of the deep south, and with too many elders choosing between medicine and food, I think the word generous does not deserve a place in this discussion. I have lived in Maine my entire life and when I was a kid when our family needed a hand, others reached out to help. We did the same in our turn. Thats the Maine I grew up in, where neighbors helped one another. We didnt talk about whether hungry people deserved to be fed, we just shared. We didn't puff ourselves all up and feel too 'generous' about it either. No one wants to perpetuate dependency, or think that the help we offer is misused, but we really have to get beyond scapegoating people who need our help, and get to the bottom of why working families cannot afford both food and shelter, let alone anything else. We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the few. That is the real issue.
It isnt about one tax over another. Taxes need to be fair and balanced. Income taxes are tied directly to a persons ability to pay. Sales taxes on goods and services hit hardest the people with the least ability to pay. Property taxes do not always reflect ability to pay either such as when a senior has lived in their home for decades, and their retirement income does not keep pace with property values.
The governor and his supporters want to fully eliminate the income tax. Income taxes support more than half of all state services so to fully eliminate them would require massive cuts to education and other vital services, and would necessitate drastic property tax increases to make up the difference.
Most people complain to me about property taxes, so before we pass more income tax cuts we need to first meet our legal obligations to lower property taxes through the Municipal Revenue Sharing program and by paying the voter-mandated 55 percent state share of public education. That citizen frustration about taxes being out of balance is what is fueling the referendum question on education funding.
Maine voters will decide this on Nov. 8, but as a private citizen I will vote against it. We have a medical marijuana program in Maine because people believe that this substance is such powerful medicine that it helps with epileptic seizures and other serious illnesses. I do not think medicine should be used recreationally. Adult recreational use would increase youth access to a drug that science shows is harmful to developing brains. There are also many legal issues that are not addressed in this law. We do not have the technology for law enforcement officers to determine marijuana-impaired driving, and this substance is still illegal under federal law. I think we should wait and see what we can learn from the other states that have recently legalized this drug before we proceed down this path. However, if Maine voters do decide to legalize, we will make the best decisions we can to create a workable enforcement and tax rules to try to make it work.
This will be decided by all Maine voters not the legislature, but as a private citizen I will vote yes. I am sorry it has taken a citizen initiative to reverse a trend to cut income taxes for the people at the top while shifting the costs of education onto property tax payers. Because of the deeply divided legislature we have had to support compromise budgets that have created this shift, and though some of us have tried very hard to make the tax changes more progressive, so that more Mainers have benefitted from them, property tax payers are clearly frustrated by the shift in tax burden from income to property taxes.
I grew up in Maine in a family of responsible gun owners who hunt, and my father was a law enforcement officer. I learned gun safety and that possessing a deadly weapon is a serious responsibility. Countless responsible gun owners have told me they support background checks because they know domestic abusers and other violent people should not have guns. The proposed law exempts transfers between family members, while the parties are hunting or sport shooting, for emergency self-defense, and if other issues arise we can work them out in the legislature next session. Our law enforcement community supports closing the background checks loophole. These reasons and the fact that 56 percent of perpetrators of domestic abuse homicide over the past five years used firearms to murder their victims are enough reasons for me,as a private citizen, to support this initiative.
The last time the minimum wage increased in Maine was 2009. We have a service-based economy and more working families rely on minimum wage jobs to support their families. Better-educated workers increasingly fill these so-called entry level jobs that often do not provide the opportunities for advancement they once did. When lower-wage working families have more money for food, housing and other necessities this pumps more money into our local economies. I think Maines working people deserve to earn enough to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. When they dont we all pay to subsidize these low wages through state and federal food, housing and medical supports. This citizen initiative would provide a modest, gradual increase, and its well overdue. I am sorry it has taken the referendum process to do the work that the legislature should have done.
This is a question that I am glad all voters will get to weigh in on. Voting is our most precious freedom and making changes to the way we vote must be carefully thought out and not a reaction to a short-term political problem. This method of voting has not been used in any other state in the country and very little around the world. I am worried that it will be complicated and thus disengage voters. If my fellow citizens do approve this change I will work with my colleagues in the legislature to do whatever we must to create a voting system that safeguards our most fundamental right.
All of the experts on the issue have said that combating this public health crisis will require more enforcement, treatment and prevention, not one over the others. Maine people continue to die at an alarming rate as this public health crisis devastates families. All of us know someone who has been affected. I have heard heart-breaking stories from families I know right here in my own communities, so I am anxious to do more to address the problems they have shared with me, especially by expanding access to medically effective treatment.
We must also eliminate the stigma that still attaches to the disease of addiction. When people in recovery, and their families and friends, tell their stories publicly their courage helps others toward recovery and reminds us that this epidemic impacts us all. Local leaders in my own communities have stepped up their efforts to help, but we must do more at the state level. We made a good start last session, but we havent yet even seen the peak of this epidemic. I am also deeply concerned about inadequate services to support babies born to mothers who have used opioids. These are the tiny voiceless victims of the drug epidemic and our current child welfare system is unprepared to address these issues.
No. I think we have enough statewide campaigns as it is.
I would not support any changes without a thorough public discussion and doing research on the issue.
I would hope the voters would sanction such people and not reelect them. We have few constitutional powers to do this as legislators, but I believe it is critical to call people out on such behavior. Elected officials are supposed to remember that they represent Maine people, and such statements do not reflect Maine values.
No, these are laws written outside our state by conservative groups funded by big corporations seeking to destroy workers rights to organize and negotiate for better wages and workplace conditions.
We tend to do short-range planning around our two-year legislative sessions, but it has to be longer-term than that. The legislature must support the economic development programs that already have been proven to work especially workforce training and education. In the 126th legislature we had a bi-partisan committee to look at workforce needs and heard from business and community leaders about how best to move the states economy forward. We made a good start, but I believe we need to keep that process going. Maine people need education and job training to gain the skills they need for jobs that exist and are being created. Maines economy is largely small business based so we have to look at the best ways to grow those businesses, and expand opportunities for jobs that pay a livable wage. People cannot work when they are sick, so we must also expand access to affordable healthcare so all Maine citizens can see a doctor when they need to. This is a critical factor in retaining young people. Expanding access to broadband is absolutely essential, especially in the most rural areas of our state.
We have to be more creative and think longer term than two-year campaign cycles to address this problem. Immigrants certainly bring needed skills, energy and diversity to our state and we badly need them. We must also do everything we can to keep our young people here and attract more of them. We have talked about some bold and creative ideas in the past two sessions I have served and it would be great to put more of them into action. Mainers tend to be a bit guarded toward outsiders, and as a person born in Maine, I do understand this. But this attitude will not help us create an economy that actually works.
I am deeply concerned about our children and young people. Though your questions touch on the issues of education, social supports, and family income, if we dont act now, the generations following us will be less healthy, possess fewer work, social and life skills, and have fewer opportunities to live the American Dream than the generations that preceded them. The growing divide between the richest and poorest in this state and nation can be seen already in the lives of our children and young adults. This does not bode well for our states future, or our nations.