The Bangor Daily News asked all of the gubernatorial candidates their positions on several issues of importance to Maine voters. In some cases, their answers have been edited or excerpted for space. For the complete responses, visit www.bangordailynews.com.
Q. Does LD 1 and its statutory spending caps actually provide property tax relief in Maine? If not, do you have a better plan for lowering property taxes statewide?
A. Several. The universal health care plan lowers taxes. We want to pay teachers salaries from the state budget, eliminating the No. 1 line item on most municipal budgets. Transfer taxes instead of property taxes. Extraction fees, etc.
Q. How will you vote on TABOR on the November ballot and why?
A. I will vote against it. But with great respect for the folks who want it. We need new leadership, not to restrain already irresponsible legislators/governor. Locking your children in their room doesn’t make them trustworthier, just restrained. We need leaders we can trust.
Q. What is your opinion on a local option sales tax for the state’s major service centers?
A. By definition it is a local option. Local governments should be able to decide their own economic fate.
Q. Is Maine’s current sales and use tax system effective? If not, how would you propose changing it?
A. If I could find a way to pay for it, I would eliminate the sales tax. It is regressive and hurtful to the low-wage earners in the state.
Q. In 2005, Maine’s top income tax rate of 8.5 percent for a single filer kicked in at $17,700 annual income. Should that be changed? If so, why?
A. We need adjustment in other areas first.
Q. Would you support a flat personal income tax similar to Massachusetts, which has a 5.3 percent rate across the board?
A. It’s not my first choice of reform.
Q. Do you think Maine taxpayers should continue to fund the races for gubernatorial candidates under the Maine Clean Elections Act? If so, should the law be amended to increase the number of signatures and cash contributions needed to qualify?
A. Yes, it needs to continue. It needs to be amended so that all participants get the same amount of time to collect. Right now independents get two months longer to collect the same number of signatures. All participants should have the same amount of time. Also the outside money is corrupting the intent of the law.
Q. With its 940 acres, Sears Island poses opportunities for the midcoast region. The island is owned by the Department of Transportation, which wants to reserve 280 acres for potential future transportation facilities. Environmental groups call the island the largest chunk of undeveloped island on the East Coast. How can these competing interests be balanced?
A. By developing the facility at Searsport. They say that they can put 84,000 containers in at Sears Island. Even if they are overexaggerating enormously, and they can only do 52,000 containers, that’s still a thousand a week. There’ll need to be rail lines, at least eight to sort the containers to get them on the right trains. And there will need to be container storage yards in addition to the yards for direct shipping. Taking the largest undeveloped island and turning it into a train yard is unnecessary with Searsport so close and already connected to rail.
Q. A study by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine estimates that visitors going to Maine state parks last year spent more than $60 million on goods such as watercraft, clothing, coolers and camping equipment, and on fees to the parks. Yet funding for park infrastructure improvements remains insufficient. Should we generate additional needed revenue by raising fees on recreational activities, imposing new taxes or some other method such as targeted lottery ticket promotion as has been done in the past?
A. Targeted lottery sounds excellent; too bad the Legislature always appropriates the funding after two years. We need to respect the intent of these measures when they are taken.
Q. Do you support a liquefied natural gas terminal in Maine? Are there any conditions to your support? How about wind power? Do you have other ideas that could be implemented to reduce high energy costs in Maine?
A. No, I don’t support LNG. We already have LNG in Maine in the form of a pipeline, and Mainers only got any of the fuel as an afterthought. The Union of Concerned Scientists has stated that natural gas will only last about 60 years. It is foolhardy to imperil Maine’s oceans and shoreline for a short-term remedy. I do support wind power as well as solar, tidal and biofuels. By investing in biofuels we also invest in Maine’s farmers. That is a win-win. I support community energy production, where communities can create energy for themselves and sell excesses into the grid. I would like the attorney general to litigate against Georgia-Pacific for lying to us about the jobs that would be saved in Old Town. When we get our $26 million back, we can invest this in energy alternatives that are real and sustainable.
Q. Do you consider the Dirigo Health initiative to be a success, failure or something in between? Would you offer any changes or alternatives?
A. Dirigo successfully got everyone thinking about health care as a basic human right. After that it is a failure as predicted by prior studies. We have a detailed plan that is a result of half a million dollars and vast intellectual resources spent on behalf of blue-ribbon commissions over the last decade or more that recommends universal health care. A detailed description is available on the Web site www.pat2006.com.
Q. The Medicaid reimbursement system called the Maine Claims Management System continues to ensnarl payments to health care providers through computer mix-ups that have now cost the state an estimated $56 million – some $35 million more than originally anticipated. The problem has prompted many lawmakers to claim there is no accountability for the problem at DHHS. Do you agree and, if so, how would your administration change the system?
A. DHHS is a mess. The governor brags that he has done Maine a favor by consolidating departments, firing hundreds of state employees and creating DHHS: a black hole vacuuming money from all corners of the state coffers. This tempest has been created like so many have in the current administration by doing something that “sounded” good but had no substance behind it. Of the hundreds of employees that we sacrificed in the merger, it appears one or more of them might have known how to run a computer, pay a bill or audit the system for mislaid funds. Unfortunately, we cut too many employees and now seem incapable of doing these things properly. Ask any surgeon – one mustn’t cut the necessary organs when removing the tumor.
Q. Maine Medicaid is the largest Medicaid program in the country. Since 2003, the number of people on Maine Medicaid has increased by more than 36,000 (15.5 percent) or more than the entire population of Bangor. Should the state limit the number of eligible participants?
A. No! The government should stimulate the economy so that we don’t have so many poor folks eligible. This whole discussion goes away when we implement universal health care, but in the meantime, the state’s No. 1 manufacturing product just now is poor people. That’s why we have so many on Medicaid.
Q. The Maine Department of Education recently signed a $41 million agreement with Apple Computer Corp. to provide new laptops to more than 30,000 seventh- and eighth-graders and their teachers over the next four years. Should the state continue to fund the program?
A. At the onset, I was not supportive of the laptop program because I felt that Maine had far more pressing financial priorities. However, now I believe it has done a great deal to provide middle-school children in Maine with access to a quality education. As such, I believe it is a program worth continuing as long as other equally important educational programs are not cut in the balance.
Q. A state panel has recommended increasing the average size of school districts, unions, etc., to between 3,000 and 4,000 students, reducing their total number (currently at 286 schools) and the cost of administration to achieve $133 million in savings. What are your thoughts on the proposal?
A. We should maintain the number of school districts but consolidate their leadership. For example, one superintendent and accompanying personnel could manage several districts … thereby maintaining the community feel and focus of the current structure but saving great resources.
Q. Do you support the expansion of slot machine gambling that now exists only in Bangor? Explain your position.
A. I intend to vote for the referenda ballot initiative to allow it for the Native populations.
Q. Maine has a sex offender registry that was recently used to plan two murders in the state. Should the registry be continued as is, modified or eliminated?
Q. If the U.S. Supreme Court were to strike down Roe v. Wade and send the issue back to the states, would you support legislation restricting a woman’s right to obtain an abortion?
Q. Do you support either gay marriage or same-sex civil unions in Maine?
A. I support a separation of church and state. I support civil unions for all same-sex or opposite-sex couples, and should that become a “marriage” by virtue of religious ceremony, that is a church issue that the state should recognize.
Q. Do you think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the public schools?
A. No. I, however, support the teaching of creation theories in philosophy classes.
Q. How would you propose funding the needed improvements to the state’s highways and bridges?
A. Water extraction fees and-or bonding.