Reports of fraud an abuse at any level are incredibly frustrating, and were right to be concerned about them. Were also right to be concerned about our neighbors. Since 2010, the number of Maine children living in extreme poverty has gradually increased, while the number of children receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has declined dramatically. This counterintuitive statistic proves that drastic cuts in assistance have reduced programs with reducing the need. We can do better. Children cannot grow into thriving adults who contribute to our economy when they are chronically hungry. We need program review to make sure social services are operating with accountability AND are available to the people who really need them.
Expanding the sales tax in order to lower the income tax would shift the burden onto low and middle-income earners. I support distributing the cost of essential programs and services fairly by increasing taxes for higher income earners, improving oversight of tax programs like the disastrous New Markets Capital Investment Program, and updating our tax code to reflect Maines economy.
I support legalization and decriminalization, and Im confident that they can create a net good for our state. Im not confident, however, that this particular legislation adequately protects Maines small growers, maintains our successful medical marijuana system, provides for health and safety concerns, and addresses the economic complexities of a new industry.
The Stand Up for Students initiative is a response to the sad truth that Maine does not adequately or equitably fund public education and that, despite a clear citizens mandate, state leaders have been unable or unwilling to meet this obligation. Tired of empty promises to prioritize school funding, citizens have stepped forward with their own proposal and outlined a funding mechanism that will finally bring Maine to the 55% requirement for state funding for public schools passed by voters in 2004.
Though Maine has so far been spared the mass shootings that plague our nation, gun violence still claims and affects too many lives. Question 3 could change that. In states that require background checks, 46% fewer women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, 48% fewer police officers are shot and killed, and the number of suicides with guns decreases. The Maine Chiefs of Police Association calls background checks the single most effective way to prevent felons, domestic abusers, people with severe mental illness, and other dangerous people from purchasing a firearm. I support the proposal to require criminal background checks for every gun sale because it is reasonable, responsible, and respectful of Maines traditions. It includes exemptions for transfers among family members and provides for unlicensed sellers at gun shows with a system thats already working in other states.
The proposed minimum wage increase is long overdue for close to 90,000 Maine workers who do not currently make enough to reliably pay for essentials like food and housing, it will also boost our economy. The 13 states that increased their minimum wage at the start of 2014 saw significantly higher job growth than those states that did not raise the minimum wage. This economic development, along with personal stories of families surviving on minimum wage and tipped workers who are finally empowered to report sexual harassment once they are assured a fair wage, proves that a higher minimum wage translates to a more secure community. I am sensitive to the concerns of small business owners, but heartened by the many who already pay their workers more than minimum wage and who publicly support this referendum.
If there was ever an election cycle that demonstrated the need for ranked choice voting, this is it. Too many people are torn between voting for a candidate they admire and voting against one they fear. Ranked choice voting sometimes called instant run-off voting allows people to vote their conscience and indicate their second choice and ensures that the winning candidate has a majority of votes.
Were rightfully concerned about the health and safety of our communities, especially in the face of staggering substance abuse problems. While law enforcement should continue to intercept drug traffickers, we cannot arrest our way out of this situation. We must draw on every available resource to meet this challenge, from Medicaid expansion and federal grants to evidence-based prevention programs and a whole host of supportive paths to recovery.
The perennial debate about election of Maines constitutional offices centers on how to best keep these key positions honest and objective. Proponents of statewide popular vote worry that there is too much partisan influence in the current system; supporters of election by the Legislature worry about the potential influence of campaign spending. Personally, Im grateful that our constitutional officers dont run for office because keeping these positions elected by the Legislature ensures they are neither held to nor swayed by big donors.
Maines legislative districts are appropriately sized so that State Representatives can really know our constituents. Its possible to knock on almost every door and talk with people in every corner of our community and I have! Though there is great value in our citizen legislature, some voters have wondered if they would be better served by a full-time Legislature. Longer sessions would give us more time to tackle our states pressing problems, but would also require pay increases.
Almost everyone Ive spoken with whether Democrat, Republican, or unenrolled voter has asked the same question: How can we improve the tone of political debate in Maine? Whatever else may divide us, we all seem to agree that bullying is not the same as leading, and that obstruction is not the same as action. Offensive, prejudicial comments hurt our community and make it more difficult for us to address our states pressing problems. I support sanctioning any elected official who undermines our state this way.
Right to work is a terrific example of the power of marketing. Though it sounds like a good thing, it actually undermines job security, working conditions, and quality of life by eroding union resources. Conditions in states that have adopted RTW laws should serve as a stark warning for Maine, and I will staunchly oppose any right to work legislation.
Its tough to weigh in on legislation that hasnt yet been drafted; so often, the devil is in the details. The debate usually centers on whether casinos create a net economic good by creating jobs and generating revenue, or a net economic and social burden by drawing revenue away from local businesses and straining the budgets of working families. Any proposed casino project should include robust analysis and a clear picture of its full impact.
Maine has simply not seen the economic recovery other states are experiencing. As mills close and our traditional industries fade, were losing the iconic, skills-centered jobs weve always relied on. Luckily, we have a hardworking workforce with a lot to offer, and our incredible quality of life attracts families, entrepreneurs, and remote workers. We great potential for innovation in new areas, like renewable energy, and great opportunities in new technology, health care, and service industries. The Legislature can and should support bold policy that nurtures this growth, maintains our infrastructure, and builds a better future for all of us.
We must improve our education system, expand our information access, and foster the kind of environment that draws and keeps young families in Maine. That means supporting strong technical schools, which give students the skills they need to earn good, skilled jobs right out of high school, and strong community colleges, which prepare students to work in emerging and thriving industries or to get an affordable head start on a four-year degree. It also requires state leadership to systematically expand access to broadband internet service.
Maine is rich in natural resources and hard-working, creative people. We care deeply about our communities, but we lack the leadership we need. From education and health care to energy and infrastructure, our state is focused on immediate needs at the expense of long-term policy. We must look ahead to the kind of Maine we want a Maine where our infrastructure supports traditional industries like farming, fishing, and boat building and clean energy and technology-based jobs; a Maine with good jobs, strong educational opportunities, and family-friendly policies; a Maine where we can all thrive. Government is neither the problem nor the solution to these challenges. Government is a tool, and using it effectively requires experience, vision, leadership, and collaboration.