Let me begin by noting a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt: 'The success or failure of any government in the final analysis must be measured by the well being of its citizens. Nothing can be more important to a state than its public health; the state's paramount concern should be the health of its people'. I believe that the role of our state government is vested in and best maintained and determined by the needs of the local people. A society as wealthy as ours has a moral obligation to meet the basic needs of all of its members. Most people are not looking for a handout, they are looking for a helping hand. When we decimate social and public health services in our communities, in particular the SNAP program, not filling funded public health nurse positions, and most recently, eliminating the Healthy Maine Partners program, we are complicit in perpetuating the cycle of poverty so rampart throughout our state. Instead, we should be doing everything we can to harness the economic potential of our towns and municipalities, from educational opportunities to jobs, living wages and healthcare. People want and need to feel safe and secure and that is not asking much. In this regard, we are failing our citizens.
The intent of the current administration is to completely eliminate the state income tax, a plan which only continues corporate welfare. Several other states have gone down this road but when you look closely, it is essentially a game of bait and switch. The state still has to pay its bills. Without an income tax, individuals end up paying higher taxes for the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the gas in their cars. This is how the deficit would be made up. An example is Tennessee which has the highest sales tax in the country. Without a state income tax, sales taxes went up 7%. Combined with local sales taxes, the actual rate increased to 9.45%. Property taxes are also significantly increased as is the case in New Hampshire. All of those extra taxes contribute to higher-than-average living expenses for those least able to afford it, the poor, low income and the elderly.
As a clinician and Maine's senior delegate to the American Medical Association (AMA), my position on this issue is one of health and safety, not judgmental, as I am completely aware of the opinions and concerns of others on this issue. The AMA has publicly stated that cannabis is a dangerous drug, and as such is a public health concern. The AMA reaffirmed its opposition to marijuana legalization, but it has also called the current federal approach to reducing the drug's use â€œineffectiveâ€. The AMA expressed support for 'modification of state and federal laws to emphasize public health based strategies to address and reduce cannabis use. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that given the data supporting the negative health and brain development effects of marijuana in children and adolescents, ages 0 through 21 years, it is opposed to marijuana use in this population. The adverse effects of marijuana in this age group have been well documented, and studies have demonstrated the potential negative consequences of short- and long-term recreational use of marijuana in adolescents. Efforts to decriminalize marijuana should take place in conjunction with efforts to prevent marijuana use and promote early treatment of adolescents with marijuana use problems. The Colorado law allowing for the use or recreational marijuana, still contrary to federal law, is now 2 years old. The proposed Maine law stands apart from the Colorado law and the 3 other states that have adopted legalization in a big way in that the Maine proposal would allow an individual to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana, more than twice the limits in those states. Currently, there are no long term evidence based studies available that have examined the pros and cons of a decision of such magnitude. It has taken many decades for us to find out the deleterious effects of tobacco, with new adverse health effects being realized on a continuous basis.
This initiative establishes a 3% surcharge on household income over $200,000. This initiated bill establishes the Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education for the purpose of improving the ability of the State to reach the annual target of 55%, as specified in statute, for the state share of the total cost of funding public education from kindergarten to grade 12, and for increasing direct support for student learning rather than administrative costs. The annual $157 million the surcharge is estimated to raise would be added to a fund known as the Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education. By any standard, this would be a very good start towards adequately preparing our kids for the future.
According to the most recent data, over 30,000 people have been killed in a gun related homicide, unintentional shooting, or murder/suicide. There were 372 mass shootings in 2015. This is flat out unacceptable. Federal law, which Maine follows, requires background checks for all gun sales by licensed dealers. The current federal law leaves a loophole that allows unlicensed dealers to sell guns at gun shows, online or in other private transactions. Because of these exceptions, background checks are required for an estimated 40 percent of gun sales. Background check exceptions in Maine's initiative would include emergency self-defense, while the parties are hunting or sport shooting, and transfers between family members. As a surgeon, I have seen first- hand the effects of gun violence. It stands to reason that we must do what we can to minimize gun violence. The Maine initiative is reasoned and I support it.
The minimum wage was set in 1938 at 25 cents, which would be $4.11 in today's dollars. 50% percent of minimum wage workers are employed in food preparation and serving related occupations. 45% are ages 16-24 and 55% are older than 25. The poverty rate in Maine is 14%, ranking the state 22nd in the nation. If the minimum wage in 1968 had simply kept up with inflation, it would be more than $10 today. If it also kept up with the added productivity of American workers since then, it would be more than $21 an hour. More money in people's pockets means more demand for goods and services, and more jobs.
Employers who don't pay enough to lift their employees out of poverty are indirectly subsidized by the rest of us who are paying billions yearly in food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, and welfare to make up the difference.
Ranked choice voting allows for a more democratic system for voters. It allows for the candidates with the best ideas, not the biggest bank accounts to have a chance to participate in our political process. Voters will no longer have to vote for the lesser of two evils when there is another candidate you like better.
Addiction and substance abuse is a very destructive and deadly public health crisis. Maine and most of New England is in the midst of an opioid crisis. This is not a problem that law enforcement can arrest its way out of, nor should the problem be solely on the shoulders of law enforcement. In May 2016, the Maine Opiate Collaborative released its final report and recommendations to meet this problem head-on. The collaborative efforts resulted in a product that focused on the inter-meshed approach that brought together experts in the field of law enforcement, education, prevention, harm reduction and treatment. This is the correct approach as this is not a problem that can be laid at the feet of any one organization.
All of these are trusted offices with duties and responsibilities defined by the Maine Constitution. If any of these officers were to be chosen via popular vote, they would of necessity be required to campaign and raise money for those campaigns. And from where that money would come would be anyone's guess. The floodgates would be open to the acceptance of PAC and upper PAC monies. By doing so, the positions are no longer trusted and are ripe for potential corruption, especially since the passage of Citizens United. This is a matter of ethics and potential conflicts of interests. The focus should be on electing Legislators you trust to carry out their sworn duties to select these constitutional officers. We need our constitutional officers doing their jobs, not spending months out on the campaign trail.
In a rural state like Maine, decreasing the size of the Legislature increases the number of people they represent. This in effect removes the people farther away from their elected officials. The current system is evidence of the state's reliance on communities, devolving the power of government to its most basic level, recognizing and respecting the common sense and good judgment of Maine citizens. My candidacy is about 'We the People', the people of Maine and especially those in Piscataquis County. It is about and should only be about public service. If we are going to talk about pay increases, we should be talking about getting an increase in the living wages of everyday Mainer's.
This is a problem with which many individuals often struggle. I am not one of those individuals. Most of us tend to believe in the 'Golden Rule' of treating others as we would like to be treated. This concept assumes that how one person would like to be treated is the same as how the next person would like to be treated. We may share similar values but how we show those values through our behavior, may be different for different individuals and different groups. It's called diversity and I see that diversity as a thought process. I have little tolerance for racist, offensive or prejudicial behavior and if sanctions are required, so be it. In this regard, we must be able to move our personal frame of reference to a more sensitive perspective.
I don't know who came up with this scam but I think I have a pretty good idea. It is a misnomer, a misleading catch phrase. The intent is to undermine the basic rights of workers, to make unions weaker, to end collective bargaining and to lower wages and working standards for all workers in a state. This law has decimated worker's rights and collective bargaining in Wisconsin. I would hate to see the same results occur in Maine.
The math is remorseless: the longer you play, the more you lose. The industry as a whole targets precisely those who can least afford to lose and earns most of its living from people for whom gambling has become an addiction. Given the level of poverty, joblessness and low wages, Maine does not need any more casinos.
In April 2016, a study by the Maine Development Foundation and Maine Economic Growth Council released a study called Measures of Growth 2016. There are serious red flags in that report that could affect Maine's capacity for full growth and should spur state government officials to enact policy solutions to address the states ongoing economic problems. The U. S. economy grew by 9.4% from 2009-2014. During the same time frame, Maine's economy shrank by 1.2%. This is an issue that requires focused leadership and a long term commitment by our elected officials. Red flag warnings of immediate concern include in particular, our transportation infrastructure, research and development and without further delay, education. It is time that we look at the big picture and take meaningful actions to resolve these consequential areas of weakness. Education, especially for our youth, is probably the states greatest potential for job growth, economic growth and economic stability. There is an obvious need for Maine to invest in developing an educated, skilled and entrepreneurial workforce that meets these needs.
Maine should without question do whatever possible to open its arms and welcome the opportunity to attract more people to come to the state. We go out of our way to attract large corporations with tax breaks, only to have them drain the state of every penny they can obtain and then leave the sate high and dry. We are a nation of immigrants with many different skill sets. We should be encouraging and promoting those individuals to join us. Human capital is a critical factor and is central to addressing ongoing problems of poverty and economic instability.
It is imperative that Maine implements Medicaid Expansion. If we were to have a do-over, my first choice would be a Single Payer System. Since that is not the case, we must deal with the circumstances as they are. With Medicaid Expansion, new federal dollars in the state would have a positive effect on overall economic activity and job creation, not to mention preventing under insured and uninsured Mainers from seeking needed healthcare or going into bankruptcy. Many Mainers are working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet and are still being left behind. As the federal government picks up more of the Medicaid burden, states will be in a much better position to provide living wages which translates to a healthier population and a healthier workforce. A large number of those estimated to gain coverage through expansion are in working families. They may be in jobs that do not offer health insurance, they may be working as contractors rather than employees, or they may be working part-time. All of these people would benefit from Medicaid Expansion. People deserve to feel safe and secure, to be able to earn a decent living wage, to have affordable healthcare to which they are entitled and not be kicked to the side of the road as they approach retirement. Gov LePage's 2016-2017 biennium budget for FY 2016-2017 included $300 million in tax reductions which would primarily lower top individual & corporate income tax rates with adjusted sales taxes. He also proposed increasing taxes on large nonprofits such as hospitals, colleges & private schools. Fortunately his veto was overridden by the legislature. The Governor's entrenched ideology not to accept Medicaid Expansion has severely undermined the state's ability to effectively balance the state budget without undermining its citizens. Medicaid Expansion would provide needed coverage for 64,000 uninsured Mainers, provide jobs across all work sectors and increase the states revenue base. The federal government pays 63% of the current Medicaid program. It would have paid all of the Medicaid costs during 2014-2016 with the federal share decreasing to 95% in 2017, 90% in 2020, and remaining at that level thereafter. Finally, those corporations who come to the state, receive perks and incentives from the state and then abruptly re-locate, leaving workers and taxpayers high and dry, must be required to pay a severe cost for these grotesque levels of greed. The wealthy and powerful should not have a stranglehold on tax cuts/breaks. Businesses owe their lives to the everyday workers and taxpayers. So if we want to increase revenue and effectively balance the budget, we must reverse the course on which we are now traveling.