Positions

As part of its 2012 election coverage, the Bangor Daily News has posed ten questions to all state candidates for Maine’s Legislature.  Below are my responses.  (My opponent declined to respond.)

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How do you propose the Legislature closes Maine’s budget gap?

Balancing Maine’s budget in the wake of recession requires hard choices, shared sacrifice, and resolve toward longer-term priorities.

While striving for greater efficiency in government must be a constant goal, it is irresponsible for the Legislature to cut taxes without concurrently doing the real work of deciding which current public functions Maine prudently can abandon or which essential public service costs can, with a clean conscience, be shifted elsewhere without devastation to those onto whose shoulders the burden is transferred – such as struggling property taxpayers, the young, the ailing, or the working poor.

To do only half the job, as was done with the final partisan budget of the last session, by cutting taxes without acknowledging the terminated services or accounting for the shifted costs, risks harm to Maine’s long-term prosperity.

Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal in Maine?

Yes. Stable, loving, committed families benefit Maine communities.

Do you support school choice?

No. Subsidizing additional private choices weakens Maine’s capacity to provide equitable access to good public education.

I believe this question is mis-framed. Maine families continue to have the choice of attending neighborhood public schools, to home-school, or to pay tuition to private and religious schools.

Maine’s first obligation must be to provide a comprehensive, equitable system of educational opportunity for all, not subsidizing individuals who choose not to engage in the hard work of sustaining and improving their own community’s schools.

The critical question before the next Legislature will be whether the state’s obligation to maintain a comprehensive system for good, equitable education is harmed by additionally subsidizing students who choose to go elsewhere outside their communities.

We’re already failing to fund Maine’s essential obligation towards the public good of education. At this time, It’s inequitable additionally to subsidize private choices.

Worse, ‘choice’ initiatives that seek to subsidize new private and for-profit businesses frequently do so by committing the expenditure of local property tax dollars without an appropriate balance of public oversight.

Do you think Maine’s school consolidation program has been successful?

As a clumsy and punitive overreach, consolidation distracted many Maine schools from necessary collaborative local improvement.

Generally, no. As a top-down directive, consolidation was a clumsy overreach from the start. Worse, it grew into a wasteful distraction from Maine’s real needs for collaborative improvement in education.

As many know, our school district on MDI was an early and effective opponent to the original legislation. While there’s little satisfaction in having our predictions proved correct about the community damage that followed from the top-down aspects of the mandate, I’m proud that our district was able to negotiate the eventual provisions of the law allowing more locally-responsive cooperative models for school systems. Now many schools which were forced into non-productive reorganizations are looking to this alternative structure as a hopeful way forward.

Do you think Maine should expand MaineCare as proposed by the president under the Affordable Care Act?

Maine should work with the federal law to maintain the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Where possible, we should be working to increase access to good, affordable, preventative health care for Maine people, not curtailing it. Rather than fighting the ACA, Maine should be working with the law along with its accompanying federal funds and tax credits toward insurance that better serves Maine families and small businesses.

What is the biggest thing Maine can do to attract more jobs to the state?

Build on Maine communities’ traditional commitment to education, entrepreneurship, and civic involvement.

To move forward, Maine needs to understand clearly its assets. These historically have been well-represented by commitment to education and a shared ethic for decency, innovation, entrepreneurship, and hard work. As a small population of tightly connected communities, civic involvement may indeed also be one of our greatest assets.

Maine must renew its commitment to the promise of all levels of education to sustain a workforce of competent, adaptable critical thinkers who can work collaboratively to solve increasingly challenging problems.

Properly managed and funded, Maine’s community and technical schools, colleges, and universities are capable of meeting our needs. Locally, established institutions like the Jackson Lab are leading lights in globally significant research. And, at the root, Maine still has communities and a connected way of life that families find attractive.

We need to recognize and amplify these assets, not mischaracterize them as failures..

Do you support lowering the state income tax? What state spending would you cut to make up for the loss of revenue?

No. We need a fairer tax structure that doesn’t harm those who are struggling the most to earn a basic living in difficult times.

In an income tax-cut race to the bottom, Maine can’t win. We need to understand the whole balance of public revenue in Maine. In our district, people have seen property taxes increase as a direct result of curtailed state budgets. We need a fairer tax structure that doesn’t harm those who are struggling the most to earn a basic living in difficult times.

Are Maine’s public assistance benefits too generous? How should they be changed?

Maine needs both a short-term safety net and a long-term commitment to build new opportunities for self-reliance.

Most Maine people are fundamentally self-reliant and want only a decent opportunity to earn a living. National recession and the harsh realities of global capital flow have caused many Mainers to lose work through no fault of their own. Maine does a reasonable job of providing an emergency social safety net to meet short-term hardship. Ultimately, the most cost-effective course for the state is to enact policies which expand opportunities for those in need to return to self-reliance. Towards this end, I believe that education and early health care offer the best return on public investment.

What should the state do to lower energy costs?

Increase conservation and efficiency. Commit in the long-term to locally-produced, sustainable energy sources.

Increased conservation and improved efficiency remain the most effective ways to reduce energy costs. It’s not glamorous policy but it’s true. To reach a stable and secure energy future, we also need to commit to the slower process of developing more efficient transportation systems and an energy infrastructure that makes increased use of locally-generated sustainable sources of power such as wind and tides. Bonds for research and technology and tax credits for private investment are appropriate mechanisms for moving Maine in this direction.

Should Maine place more restrictions on abortion?

No. Current Maine law covers this well.

Health and reproductive decisions are deeply personal and should be settled between a woman and her doctor without additional government intrusion.



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