Given that social services encompasses such diverse programs as foster care, housing for our elderly, and substance abuse treatment and prevention, it is more productive to analyze the costs and benefits of the individual programs and look for ways to increase effectiveness and efficiency.
I support smart tax reform that will help our working families. We successfully passed tax reform last session that moves Maine in the right direction lowering the top bracket tax rate from 7.95% to 7.15%, increasing the standard deduction, doubling the homestead exemption, making the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable, increased meals and lodging taxes to capture more tourist dollars, and introducing a refundable sales tax fairness credit to reduce the impact of sales tax increases for middle and low income Mainers. I look forward to having the opportunity to continue this conversation with my legislative colleagues.
I would like for Maine to learn from other states experiences before moving in this direction. Given Maines current addiction epidemic, I am uncomfortable legalizing a substance for which I have not seen conclusive evidence on how it may or may not impact peoples health and the degree of its role as a gateway drug.
All of our children deserve an equal opportunity for a quality education no matter where they live. Having the state meet its legally obligated funding level of public education is a critical aspect for making sure this happens. Maine citizens overwhelmingly voted in favor of the state funding 55% of the cost of public education but did not include a funding mechanism. I have advocated every year for the state to meet this legal requirement and had some success in moving the dial, however negotiating every year through the budget process is not providing any immediate relief to our local property taxes or schools.
The analogy that I have heard and think accurately captures the current situation is its like having two lines at the airport one with security, the other without and letting the criminals decide on which line to use. The whole idea of background checks is to keep dangerous people from having guns. Right now people can buy guns anonymously online or at gun shows. This major loophole allows people who shouldnt have guns to purchase them with absolutely no background check. We have to close this loophole in the law. This is common sense and good public safety policy.
For years the cost of groceries, housing and healthcare have been increasing while wages have not kept pace. Working full time at the minimum wage equates to $12,000 a year which is very little money for someone to live on, let alone support a family or save for retirement. Homecare providers for our elderly, paramedics and nursing assistants are just a few of some of our important workers who would begin to earn a better living. Maines small businesses support this gradual increase because they know its good for their businesses to have more people with a little more money in their pockets to spend and its good for Maines economy.
Ranked choice voting creates strong incentives for candidates to reject negative campaigning and remain civil with their opponents and decreases the possibility of candidates to be elected with less than a majority of votes.
This is a false choice. Good public policy should address issues holistically and shouldnt rely on a single answer. I support both strengthening law enforcement and treatment options. Last legislative session saw both successes and failures at increasing access to treatment, saving the lives of people who have overdosed, and funding law enforcement to go after the drug dealers who are profiting from our neighbors' addiction. We passed bipartisan legislation to fund a detox center as well as ten new drug enforcement agents, and we passed legislation to permit trained pharmacists to furnish naloxone the overdose antidote when we overrode the governor's veto with a bipartisan vote. However, we failed to increase access to methadone. Mainecare reimbursement rates are some of the lowest in the country, which is causing clinics to close and people to lose access to life saving treatment. My hope is next session we will increase the rates and all agree that allowing Mainers struggling with addiction access to Mainecare will go a long way to help facilitating their recovery and rebuilding families.
I support strengthening opportunities for direct democracy. At the same time, consideration needs to be given to whether this change potentially would limit the range of candidates who could serve to those financially able and willing to run a state-wide political campaigns. Residents of District 29 have not indicated that this is an issue on their minds.
I have not heard from my constituents that the size of the Legislature needs to be changed, and I have not encountered any evidence during my service as State Senator that the Legislature is not sized appropriately. Legislative salary should reflect that it is not in session year round and balance that with the need to attract motivated and eager Mainers who would like to serve their state. The current rate of pay often is a barrier for many who would otherwise gladly work to advance their communities interests in the State House.
Serving the citizens of our state is an honor and requires any elected official to hold themselves to a high standard of conduct and civility. If an elected official behaves in a manner that negatively impacts our citizens trust and respect for their elected bodies, then a sanction from those institutions is an appropriate action.
I support the notion that hard working Mainers have the legal right to come together and negotiate with their employers for fair wages, health care and safe working conditions without being afraid of retaliation from the companies. As a result, I would not support legislation that seeks to systemically weaken their rights.
Maine has a wholesome reputation across America that is essential for our economic base. Building more casinos throughout our state will weaken our image and place at risk our vibrant tourist economy. Visitors come to Maine for our beautiful coastline, lakes and mountains not to gamble.
An aging population and consequently declining workforce is a major barrier to a healthy economic future for Maine. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Maine Development Foundation issued a call to action this month to divert Maine from the demographic cliff it is facing. Keeping Maines youth in state and encouraging in-migration is critical. We need to make sure our young families have access to affordable housing, quality schools and vibrant communities. The Legislature needs to reaffirm its commitment to funding public education, commit to making higher education affordable by investing in its state university and community college systems and student grant program, and target investments that will support growth of Maines downtowns.
Please see my answer to question 14.
We need to always work on new ways to encourage entrepreneurs, innovators and new businesses in Maine. This means having a strong, robust and celebrated education system from pre-k through higher education. It means focusing on and investing in our broadband infrastructure. It requires leadership from the States executive to be optimistic and encouraging to help attract more capital to our startups. Maine cannot remain complacent in the face of climate change and the impact on our way of life. Our coastal waters are warming faster than 99% of our worlds other oceans. Puffin populations are declining as their herring supply moves further north in search of colder waters. Our lobsters may soon follow them. Lobsters and clams are suffering from shell disease due to the acidification of our ocean. Tick borne diseases are threatening human health and wildlife like our beloved moose with the advent of warmer winters. The threats to Maine are many and varied and policy solutions are complex, long-term and large in scope. This, however, does not excuse inertia or avoiding the tough conversations. As a state, we must be leaders in the effort to mitigate climate change to protect our precious natural resources and preserve our pristine environment for our children and their children.