Wendy J. Wolf

Wendy J. Wolf

Wendy J. Wolf

Independent candidate for Maine House District 89 from Boothbay Harbor

Running against Stephanie Hawke. View your ballot →

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

Since Maine's social services programs are diverse, managed by many different agencies and have varying track records with regard to effectiveness, value and demonstrated impact, this question cannot be answered by a simple yes/no. Maine's population is older, poorer and there is a higher cost associated with delivering services across the state's extensive rural communities. In addition, some programs are directly federally funded (for example food assistance or SNAP) but managed by the state, while other programs are funded by both federal and state dollars (Medicaid) or state dollars. Instead of blanket statements, the legislature needs to assess the intent of each program, what the anticipated outcomes are, how it's being achieved and what the value (cost for outcome) is. Changes in benefits should be based on such data-driven analysis.

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

Again, the BDN is posing a simplistic question that doesn't address the complexity of altering our tax structure. Given our state income tax rates, I am generally opposed to raising personal income taxes, and we should examine how to lower state income tax by more creative and targeted sales (use) taxes to keep the state revenue stream at appropriate levels. Please see my response to Question 4 for an example of better tax approaches.

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

No

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

As a physician and board certified pediatrician, I oppose the legalization of marijuana. The American Academy of Pediatrics has examined this issue thoroughly and reviewed the relatively limited scientific evidence regarding the impact of marijuana use on youth behavior and child health. Long term use in adolescents has been associated with a higher prevalence of mental health issues and respiratory problems. In addition, we know from smoking and the data on alcohol and substance use in teens that legalizing use but restricting access does not provide adequate safeguards to prevent adolescent use. There needs to be much more research conducted in states that have already legalized marijuana to evaluate the impact on adolescent and child health (second hand exposure, etc) before other states, like Maine, take this step.

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)

Ensuring that every child has access to free, high quality public education from grades K through 12 is a cornerstone of our nations success. This ballot measure proposes a new tax on people earning over $200,000 to meet the 55% funding requirement. In 2003, Maine voters agreed that the state should pay 55% of the cost of K-12 education, but subsequent to that vote, the state has failed to meet that funding requirement. I am a strong supporter that the state must meet the 55% funding obligation mandated by the voters; however, I am opposed to the proposed mechanism for this initiative, which is a selective tax on high wage earners. I actually met with representatives from the Maine Education Association (MEA) to discuss my position since this ballot question is one of their key priorities. Rather than imposing higher taxes on selected residents, I feel there are smarter and more productive funding strategies that could provide a win-win solution and meet the 55% funding obligation. For example, we know that childhood obesity is a significant problem in Maine and that one factor driving the high rates of child obesity is access to sugary drinks that have little nutritional value. If the legislature is unable to fund the 55% through the regular state budget process, then a better solution would be to approve a surcharge on sodas and other sugary drinks that could be earmarked for education support. This would have the positive side effect of decreasing consumption of sugary drinks, which could help address youth obesity rates while generating income to meet the 55% percent. Similarly, Maine could also raise our tobacco tax as an alternative approach. Research has clearly demonstrated that price sensitivity is one of the most proven ways to cut youth smoking rates. These creative funding approaches could provide the necessary revenue while having additional positive health benefits for children and youth. Im pleased to note that although my position on Q2 diverges with the Maine Education Association, I have received their endorsement in the election.

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

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required)

I fully support the Constitution and the Second Amendment, but I firmly believe that every right given to citizens by the Constitution comes with responsibilities. In our state domestic violence typically from firearms - is the leading cause of homicide in Maine. Supporting Q3 is a reasonable approach that values and balances public safety and personal accountability as part of responsible gun ownership. It also closes a loop hole that allows access to firearms for those who would fail a licensed firearm dealer background check. My position is influenced by my experience as a pediatrician where I saw first-hand how unsafe gun practices and lax background check laws can lead to children being innocent victims through domestic violence or accidents in the home. Reasonable background checks on private sales are just common sense steps to ensure public safety. I also believe that people who own firearms should be required to demonstrate adequate knowledge of basic safety and use. Part of our societal basic safety is ensuring that reasonable background checks keep weapons out of the hands of individuals who should not have access to lethal firearms.

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

Yes

Please explain your answer. (Not required.)

One of our countrys fundamental beliefs is that with hard work, every person should be able to provide for their familys basic needs. However, the persistent and sustained gap in wealth accumulation between people working in low wage jobs and high income earners has made it harder and harder for families to make a liveable wage that provides stability to meet basic needs. I strongly support increasing the minimum wage through both state and federal policy changes, but I am less certain that implementing such a complex issue through the public referendum process is the best solution. This type of policy change is complex, yet, the increase in the minimum wage occurs on a schedule dictated by the public referendum question. I have concerns that this could attenuate the capacity of an informed legislature to make reasonable adjustments and refinements to the law as unanticipated issues arise. Because of my concerns, I have spent many hours talking to local business owners (including restaurants) to hear about their views. Many small business owners are concerned about meeting the wage increases, yet many already pay above minimum wage because they have to compete with larger businesses for qualified employees. However, I also know the legislature has failed to act on adjusting the minimum wage, and this referendum question is a response to that inaction. After speaking to local businesses, including some restaurant owners, I have decided to support this initiative. One benefit to lifting low wages is the positive secondary benefit of potentially decreasing dependence on state assistance.

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)

NOTE that I am still UNDECIDED on rank choice voting but the BDN does not provide a choice for undecided. On first blush, rank choice voting seems like a reasonable approach to promote third party candidates and ensure that public officials are elected by a majority. However, Ive done a lot of reading and research on the issue and feel the intention of the law is not necessarily borne out in the results over time. I am still weighing this approach and its constitutionality.

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?

The statewide Maine Opioid Task Forces that focus on prevention and harm reduction, treatment and law enforcement agree that the state's approach to our addiction crisis cannot rest on law enforcement. In other words, we can't arrest our way out of this public health crisis. Past national efforts to combat drug use through law enforcement within our borders and beyond have amply demonstrated that law enforcement cannot solve this problem. As long as there is demand there will be someone to supply heroin and other addictive substances. A more effective strategy is to invest resources into primary prevention and to assist people who are ready to enter recovery so they are no longer using. If one looks at the response of police department's across the state who are now trying to help and assist people who are addicted, it illustrates how the police themselves feel that treatment is a high priority.

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?

Elected by the legislature

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

Not having served in the legislature, it's difficult to make a reasoned judgement. However, we have a large House of Representatives and there should be a critical assessment of whether a smaller chamber (with larger districts) might be more efficient.

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

The legislature has the capacity to censure individuals, and as such, it should be applied when an elected official behaves inappropriately.

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

Generally no, but all legislation should be evaluated on its specific language and requirements.

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

I do not support additional casinos in Maine.

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

We need elected officials who are capable of articulating a long range, strategic vision for our economy that focuses on future-oriented businesses that provide good paying jobs with year round employment. Maine has many assets and the current approach focuses more on what's wrong with our state, as opposed to talking about and building on our assets and unique qualities. However, we need to be supporting infrastructure developments that makes it easy for entrepreneurs and new businesses to operate and conduct commerce. One key feature to accomplish this is to advance broadband and/or high speed internet access across our rural communities. Telecommuting, conducting internet sales and operating virtual businesses are just part of the future-looking economy. Maine also needs to streamline regulations and our business tax structure to be more supportive of business.

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?

We need to ensure that every child born in our state is valued and receives a first rate education to ensure our businesses have the workforce of the future. However, we also need to attract people from outside the state to meet our workforce demands. Welcoming immigrants, who generally represent a much younger demographic overall, is part of that solution.

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

Environmental stewardship; our response to climate change, access to health care, meeting the needs of our aging population beyond the question of immigration.