Social service agencies have received less money over the last decade, due to tax increases and funding cuts to mental health service providers at the State level. The costs of living and costs of doing business in our communities have increased. Educational expenses for providers have increased. Community members who invested in our local communities by receiving educations in social work, human development, psychology (and other related fields) are not paid commiserate with degree holders from other states when they work in Maine.
If we want to see social services achieve intended purposes (for example, moving families from poverty to self sufficiency; aiding children and adults with disabilities to develop or maintain skills; helping veterans recover) than we must make sure we invest in the outcomes of social service provision, especially those that are results-based and achieve goals. Otherwise, our tax investments are not serving intended purposes which are to promote the general welfare of Maine citizens and to ensure domestic tranquility.
Trying to replace the revenue from income taxes with increased sales taxes could lead to total tax rates on consumption between 30% and 40%. Maine's sales tax rate is currently 5.5%. Income taxes are stable sources of revenue for Maine and the federal government. Sales tax revenue varies as people tend to spend less when times are hard. Maine's budget cannot afford variable changes.
Maine communities should receive a benefit from all taxes paid. I support sales tax revenue being shared with Maine communities, and will work to reinstate revenue sharing.
From a fiscal standpoint, legalizing and regulating recreational use of marijuana and decriminalizing marijuana possession has been successful for other states tax base. For example, Colorado collected more than $6 million in tax revenue in the first two months of 2014 after the law went into effect.
From moral standpoints, legal consistency is important and far more citizens die from alcohol, cigarettes, and junk food than from marijuana use. Laws criminalizing marijuana are not applied fairly. Black Mainers are twice as likely as Whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite the fact that they use marijuana at the same rates.
Maine's education system has been underfunded for more than thirteen years. Our children deserve better.
A loophole in the current law allows individuals not in the business of selling firearms to sell guns without a license and without processing any paperwork. 40% of guns sold change hands without a background check. Universal background checks close this loophole for Maine citizens.
The national background check system has prevented millions of convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers from buying guns. Helping the background check system work better protects the right to life and liberty of all people.
Raising the minimum wage is an investment in the prosperity of Maine communities, by giving more than 130,000 Mainers a raise. Wages have not kept pace with costs of living, meaning those receiving this boost in pay have the most propensity to spend the money in their local communities. All business owners in Maine should reap the benefits of more customers.
A good democracy requires majority rule, which is 50% +1. Ranked choice voting ensures majority rule in state and federal races when more than two candidates are running.The lesser of two evils philosophy is a moral tragedy, and ranked choice voting corrects this.
When we focus on what we do not want -- drug traffickers -- we get more of them. When we focus on problems, and not on solutions, problems tend to become worse. If our communities want fewer drug addicts we need to treat drug addiction and the underlying causes of addiction (trauma and mental illness). If we want fewer drug addicts, we must ensure people have access to medications like methadone and suboxone for as long as medically necessary. We need to change our view of addiction and see addiction as a disease. At present time, many medically ill Mainers do not have access to healthcare and drug treatment for their chronic recurring medical condition.
While I appreciate a popular election of these officers would require candidates to raise funds and garner endorsements, which could lead to concerns about conflicts of interest, the states constitutional officers do not currently answer to the public or the governor, and their accountability is limited. A popular election would increase public accountability for these constitutional offices and should be used.
The pay for legislative service should be increased, as doing so would give more Mainers the opportunity to serve in the State Legislature. Public service in Maine has been limited to retirees, independent business owners and others who can afford to work for little pay during the legislative session.
An elected official must represent all the people in their community and those making racist, offensive and prejudicial comments prove themselves incapable of fulfilling their duties. We must censor and sanction such actions due to the harm caused to Maine citizens. We must also be mindful that citizens in the larger national and world communities question whether Maine is a safe and comfortable place to come visit when public servants fail to use due diligence after an elected official breaks the law.
When we see job growth and a corresponding drop in the standard of living for workers, something is wrong. Right To Work (RTW) laws are focused on union membership, and the implications are workplace protections for employees have been reduced. Wages in RTW states tend to be lower, and RTW workers earn less annually. Significantly fewer workers are covered by employer sponsored health insurance in RTW states.
We currently allow nationwide corporations to operate casinos in Maine and have not allowed Maine citizens the same opportunity. That must change.
Hannaford and Walmart are among the State's largest employers. For a Mainer to afford food, clothing, shelter and heat they must earn more than $15/hour. Neither of these employers pays this wage to employees. Maine tax payers have subsidized low wages for decades. The Legislature also gives up revenue to these corporations in the form of tax breaks. Maine communities have been deprived of tax revenue from hosting these corporations in their towns. These factors have served to significantly damage Maine's economy.
The Legislature could hold employers responsible for paying livable wages by refusing to subsidize employee wages any longer. Other states have considered imposing a tax of $1/hour per employee on corporations when employees earn wages under $15/hr. The Legislature could also raise the State minimum wage to $15/hour and index wages to the costs of living, to ensure all working citizens have basic needs met. The Legislature could stop giving tax breaks to Walmart, Hannaford and other large corporations, and give Maine communities the needed tax revenue.
Immigration is typically a short-term economic strategy. We must welcome immigrants with confidence, as at least 30% open small businesses that employ Maine people. Maine's Legislature will need find ways to bring in people from out of state way above the historical trend in order to make up the difference (between the number of people leaving the workforce and the people coming of age and becoming our State's workforce).
In addition, we must increase wages and be much more competitive in how we compensate people. We must be mindful that soon, in order to find workers, we will have to recruit from out of state. That will increase the cost of hiring and the costs of doing business.
Maine dropped to 17th for overall child well-being in the latest Kids Count report, dropping five spots in one year. Maine's child poverty rate has steadily increased over the last six years, with 6,000 more children living in poverty in 2014 than in 2008. The 2015 Task Force to End Student Hunger report found more than 86,000 students in Maine go hungry every day. We must expand food and nutrition programs for families at the State level and make sure federal funds for children in poverty are used appropriately.