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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. Do 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. We do know that LD 1 has not brought the “historic and unprecedented” property tax relief promised by the governor because it did not include a requirement that the increased state funds for schools be used to reduce taxes.
Q. How will you vote on TABOR on the November ballot and why?
A. I strongly support the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Government spending and Maine taxes are at unsustainable levels. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights places reasonable limits on spending growth and will lead to a reduction in our tax burden. It also takes power out of the hands of the politicians and returns it to where it should be – the people.
Q. What is your opinion on a local option sales tax for the state’s major service centers?
A. I am opposed to local option taxes. Maine is one state and should have one statewide tax policy. Our tax burden is already too high, and we should not make matters worse by imposing a whole new level of taxation on Maine people.
Q. Is Maine’s current sales and use tax system effective? If not, how would you propose changing it?
A. We should only consider changes as part of comprehensive tax reform that results in an overall reduction in the tax burden. I am opposed to efforts to expand the sales tax to increase revenue.
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. I will initiate income tax reform by reducing the top marginal rate of 8.5 percent and increasing the level of income at which the top rate kicks in so fewer Maine people are subject to the top rate.
Q. Would you support a flat personal income tax similar to Massachusetts that has a 5.3 percent across-the-board rate?
A. Maine’s top rate of 8.5 percent kicks in at such a low level of income that we effectively have a flat personal income tax now. I am not opposed to the concept of a flat tax.
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. For the system to continue to have the support of the voters, we must ensure that proper procedures are in place to protect the integrity of the system and to establish that candidates have enough support to justify the expenditure of public funds. I believe the current procedures meet those goals, but the system should be reviewed after each election, and I would consider changes to strengthen the system.
Q. With its 940 acres, Sears Island poses opportunities for the midcoast region. The island is owned by the Department of Transportation that 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. The Department of Transportation is attempting to balance the different interests by preserving most of the island while allowing future development on part of the island. This compromise will not satisfy those who want no development, but is a reasonable attempt at compromise.
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. We should look at ways to increase revenue from our parks with a goal of making the parks self-supporting. We should run our parks as a business and dedicate the revenue generated by the parks to the operation and improvement of the parks.
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. The approval of an LNG terminal is under the control of federal, not state, officials. As governor, I will try to ensure that local concerns are addressed as any site is considered. I am concerned that wind power is costly and dependent upon federal subsidies to be viable. To help reduce high energy costs in Maine, I support expanded research and development and applied technological research in the private sector to help spur the growth of alternative energy.
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 is a failure. The governor’s stated goal was to enroll 31,000 people in Dirigo by the end of the first year. Even the most inflated numbers from the administration show that they failed to come anywhere near their stated goal. The 20 percent premium increases being sought by Anthem show that Dirigo has failed to reduce the cost of health insurance. To make health insurance more affordable, we must make Maine’s health insurance market more competitive.
Q. The Medicaid reimbursement system called the Maine Claims Management System continues to ensnarl payments to health care providers through computer snafus 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. The governor’s continued failure to address this problem or to hold his people accountable for their continued failures is shameful. As governor, I will hire the best managers and hold them accountable. This means that when people don’t get the job done, they will lose theirs.
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. Maine’s Medicaid program is unsustainable and needs fundamental reform. We simply can’t afford continued growth in the program. We must review the eligibility levels and the benefits provided with a goal of putting Maine’s Medicaid participation rates more in line with other states.
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-grade students and their teachers over the next four years. Should the state continue to fund the program?
A. I support increased use of technology in our schools, but do not support the laptop program because it is a one-size-fits-all approach imposed by Augusta.
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. I support reducing the cost of administration of our schools. I do not support shotgun weddings between school districts forced by the state.
Q. Do you support the expansion of slot machine gambling that now exists only in Bangor? Explain your position.
A. I support racinos, as endorsed by Maine voters, as a means of enhancing harness racing and the agricultural community. I support a racino in Washington County because the project has strong local support and could be a stimulus for economic development in a part of our state that sorely needs it.
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?
A. I am a strong supporter of our sex offender registry. Maine people deserve to have access to information about dangerous offenders in their communities. I support the proposal to limit access to information about those convicted of misdemeanor crimes and to take stronger action to ensure that all offenders register as required.
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?
A. I believe that abortion is the taking of a human life; therefore I oppose abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, I would support Maine moving in this direction
Q. Do you support either gay marriage or same-sex civil unions in Maine?
Q. Do you think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the public schools?
A. I believe our schools should expose students to the many different ways of looking at our world, including evolution, creationism and intelligent design. As governor, I will leave curriculum decisions to local schools.
Q. How would you propose funding the needed improvements to the state’s highways and bridges?
A. I would start by ending the raids on the Highway Fund and using gas tax revenue for the purpose it is supposed to be used for – roads.