James H. Azzola

James H. Azzola

James H. Azzola

Republican candidate for Maine House District 41 from Portland

Running against Erik C. Jorgensen. View your ballot →

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

Maine's population is old, so there should be more social services relative to the average state. The trouble is, Maine is 2nd overall in welfare benefits, state and local, relative to overall income. Maines biggest problem is its anemic economy, to blame principally because of high taxes and spending. I dont wish to cut welfare for people. I want to cut corporate welfare, totaling some hundreds of millions of dollars per year. What is particularly distressing is the opaque nature of many of these expenses. We need to sunset these programs and return monies to Mainers, to spend, save and grow their own businesses, organically.

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

Personal and business taxes are too high. Maine's personal tax burden, both state and local, is 11.5%. This places Maine on a par with high tax states like New Jersey and Vermont, within the top 10 states most taxed, a dubious distinction. I favor a reduction in the combination of both sales and income taxes, principally to allow ordinary Mainers (those with little voice in Augusta) the ability to choose where to spend and invest their own money, to grow our anemic economy organically from the inside.

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

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

Fortunately, Portland has largely realized how important it is to develop a sensible drug policy towards marijuana.

Let me first say, however, in order to allay many fears - drugs will NEVER be legal for kids. BUT, and this is a very important statement, though it may appear ironic, legalizing drugs for responsible adults is the BEST POLICY towards keeping drugs away from kids. Let me explain.

Have you ever wondered why your kids have ready access to marijuana? The reasons are simple. Making a drug illegal means it's risky to satisfy demand for it. Of course, this attracts the criminal element towards selling it. $120 an ounce marijuana means criminals want to sell it - and because they don't care how old a customer is, they want to sell it to your kid.

Contrast this with a world in which marijuana is legal for adults, just like alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana would cost $20 an ounce, there would be no criminal element - they'd be out of business, and everyone selling it would be in a licensed corner store. Did you ever ask yourself why it's relatively difficult for kids to obtain alcohol and cigarettes? Because those legitimate businesspersons who might otherwise want to sell these to your kids are looking at fines and jail time if they did.

Here's another notion I need to dispel - the idea that legalizing weed leads to more abuse. There have been untold numbers of studies investigating the incidence of marijuana use following legalization. Before California legalized medical marijuana in the 1990's scare stories about everyone smoking weed after this measure passes dominated the airways, and you know what? Nothing unusual happened after it passed.

Should driving unsafe while high be illegal? Of course it should, just like driving drunk or drowsy, or impaired in any way. This is the concept of reckless endangerment. Nothing in that regard will change.

Marijuana will provide hundreds of millions of dollars a year to business in Maine alone. Judging from current tax rates in places like Colorado, this could add $50 Million per year to state coffers.

Legalizing marijuana use for responsible adults is the only sensible drug policy.

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

No

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

This sounds, on the surface, like a good idea, but higher taxes are never a good idea. Revenue from this measure will probably find its way to the general fund anyway. Here in Portland, half of the municipal budget is consumed by public school cost, a good portion of which is underwritten by the State of Maine. We need to free up the educational market, provide more competition and allow parents to choose the right educational options for their kids. I favor voucher programs. This will not only increase educational excellence but also lower cost. This is the only sound path to tame Maine's financial and performance dilemmas.

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

No

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

There are too many bad aspects of this bill, such as the requirement that whenever you lend your friend or neighbor a firearm, they are required to submit to a background check. Failure to do so makes criminals of both parties. Why should Maine change its well established gun laws to suit Michael Bloomberg's vision of a gun free zone? New York City is none the better - why would Maine be, also?

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

No

Please explain your answer. (Not required.)

Maine also needs to eliminate the Minimum Wage - a feel-good measure which does nothing more than make a few politicians look good because they can quote higher wages, while ignoring the fact that unemployment went up as a result. Have you ever wondered what happened to ushers at theatres? Because of the minimum wage today's youth can't be hired at competitive wages for this important function of the theatre business to be viable.

In Seattle, where they've already adopted a $15/hr minimum wage, restaurants struggle to keep business open as the city copes with higher labor costs.

The unintended consequences of minimum wage are fewer low-end jobs, and less opportunity for unskilled workers and especially the youth to enter the jobs market.

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

No

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

While I can foresee certain scenarios in which RCV has merit, it appears gimmicky and will also raise election costs.

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. Treatment methods like the HARM program are always superior to waging a drug war, which has invariably been counterproductive.

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?

Yes.

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

I believe Maine would be better served with more legislators. Look to neighboring New Hampshire, where twice as many elected for the same population have provided better representation. Don't see any pressing need for more compensation.

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

No. There is a real danger any off-color remarks can be targeted by oppositional political forces in order to shut down dissent. A thorough broadside in a free press is usually more than adequate to combat offensive remarks.

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

Yes, strongly. Everyone should have freedom of choice with regards to where they want to work without having to pay mandatory union membership dues.

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

Yes.

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

There are several ways for Maine to get its economy back on track. The clearest path is to stop wasting capital by trying to jump start large company participation in Maines economy by providing preferential tax, subsidy, and regulatory treatment to these large companies, the ones who not so coincidentally have substantial lobbying power in Augusta. This is what is commonly referred to as corporate welfare. Maines state budget is full of this hundreds of millions of dollars annually out of a budget of $4 Billion. Lets return this capital back to ordinary Mainers and allow them to decide how to grow the economy through far more efficient organic small business growth.

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?

The primary reason Maine's population is aging is because of youth flight as a result of fewer opportunities in an anemic economy. All of the above measures, reducing taxes, cutting corporate welfare, fostering a free market approach to education, and legalizing marijuana, will be effective at reversing these deleterious trends.

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

Cutting corporate welfare. This is by far the biggest hidden problem in Maine.