Plan for Progress A blueprint for how we move Maine forward
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Increase Minimum Wage - Mainers deserve an increase in pay. While productivity has steadily increased, while the cost of goods and services have also increased, wages have not caught up. People need to be able to afford a basic standard of living. While corporate America racks up record profits, their employees are relying on state and federal safety nets in order to supplement their low wages. I think taxpayers have footed the bill far too long. Corporations should step up and gradually raise wages to limit the use of welfare programs. I applaud small businesses across our state that have already done this. To encourage high school workers, I would be open to discussing a possible training wage separate from the proposed increases for those using a student work permit.
Welfare Reform – The best form of welfare reform is a good paying job. Sadly, we are not incentivizing work. As soon as someone gets a job, their social safety net benefits immediately get cut off. A more gradual reduction as the person gets back on their feet encourages people to work. We should also look at partnering with companies that would like to hire individuals as a way to distribute temporary assistance funds.
Small Business Support – We should be incentivizing new full time employment especially with mom and pop shops in our communities. This can be achieved through an expansion of targeted tax breaks called Employment TIF.
Downtown Revitalization – Our historic downtowns represent more than just a connection to Maine’s rich history, it represents the economic future of our state. I see this as a board member of Saco Main Street, Saco’s downtown development organization. By investing in startup businesses through collaborative joint work spaces, free downtown wifi, and high speed broadband expansion we can attract the 21st century workforce Maine desperately needs.
‘RESIDENTS FIRST’ TAX POLICY
Lower Property Taxes – Property taxes are forcing people, especially those on a fixed income, out of their homes. While property taxes are decided on the local level, the state can do better in providing municipal revenue sharing to cities and towns to help pay for essential services that are the biggest cost drivers. Also fully funding the Property Tax Fairness program would ensure more individuals could apply for assistance. This can be paid for by using any surplus at the end of a budget cycle that represents on average millions of dollars.
Local Option Sales Tax – I would support a local option sales tax which would benefit communities like Saco and Old Orchard that are tourist-heavy. Currently, towns/cities don’t get any revenue back from the sales tax outside of the money the state sends back via municipal revenue sharing. By having an option for towns and cities to increase/lower the rate of the sales tax on top of the state rate, it would enable more resources to stay local and be spent locally. For example, a penny sales tax that goes just to local schools, just to local police, just to repairing and paving local roads.
Natural Gas - To lower long term energy costs, we must assist with natural gas expansion throughout the state.
Solar Power - Investing in rebates for solar energy conversion of homes and businesses would drive down a reliance on costly heating oil and help with long term savings on overall energy costs.
DRUG CRISIS As a member of the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee, we’ve made this a top priority to tackle this epidemic head on. This past session we passed a comprehensive proposal to increase enforcement to go after the dealers and traffickers, start a grant for local police departments to implement a judgement free/law free environment to seek resources and help, increase capacity for drug courts, and invest in various treatment modalities. It’s never enough though. We must do more.
Early Drug Prevention – We need to develop more positive relationships between our law enforcement and young kids/students in schools. This also could help in starting drug prevention programs with existing school resource officers that are already in schools. I went through a D.A.R.E program when I was little and it had a profound impact on my class who learned the negative side effects and repercussions of taking drugs. If we start early, we prevent individuals from starting to begin with.
Treatment – We must heighten our efforts on treatment rather than constantly cut and limit treatment like the Governor’s administration has consistently done. It starts with a conversation with folks going through the battle of addiction like I have at area programs like the Milestone Foundation in Old Orchard Beach. You really get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work on their road to recovery.
Affordable Senior Housing – We must force the governor to release the voter approved $15 million bond to expand affordable senior housing throughout the state. Voters went to the ballot box and said this was a priority. The Governor is simply ignoring the will of the people. As someone who had a grandfather that was put on a waiting list for housing, this is personal for so many people.
Affordable Medications – Protecting the Drugs for the Elderly Program isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s literally a matter of life or death for the seniors that rely on it.
Homeless Veterans – One homeless Veteran is one too many. While we do have housing programs in place to help get Veterans back on their feet, there is a gap in assistance when it comes to taking adult education classes like resume building and computer skills. The state should start a grant to be administered through the adult education programs already in existence throughout the state to provide financial assistance to any Veteran that seeks it. Many Veterans, homeless or not, seek second careers, but without additional training struggle with getting started. This would go a long way to making the transition easier.
Full Funding – Voters went to the ballot box and said the state’s share of education needs to be at 55% of the total cost. The reality is the state hasn’t kept that mandate from the people. By shortchanging school districts with less money, local communities have to find the money elsewhere usually in the form of higher property taxes. We need to invest in the next generation to ensure a successful future workforce here in the state.
High School to College Partnerships – Thornton Academy has a great model that could be used across the state. Partnerships with area colleges to provide college credits as part of a tracked education plan to ensures students graduate high school with at least a year of college completed at no to little cost.
Market existing programs – While the state has some important college cost reduction programs from the state grants to free college classes in high school to the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit to lessen student loan debt, many students and families aren’t aware they exist. The state needs to promote these college assistance programs to the public through the schools to increase participation.
Real World Experience – If we made it mandatory for students to take on an internship with an employer of their choice or do X number of hours of community service before they graduate, students would gain important skill sets and possibly discover new passions on their road to success.
Limit Lobbyist Influence – We must ban sitting legislators from operating political action committees (PACs). Currently sitting legislators are taking money from the very corporate interests and industries we are supposed to be regulating. The special interest group with the largest checkbook has the most direct influence of public policy decision making. This has to stop.
Archive Proceedings – Currently there is no way for the public to watch our debates on the House/Senate floor or committee proceedings after the fact. Yes, they are live, but many people work and can’t listen/watch it during the day. Ensuring that we archive audio/video feeds on the state website, would enable citizens to follow exactly what happens every day at the State House and track what their legislator is working on.
Recall Process – As evident with the failed impeachment effort for the Governor, we need to give the power to the people to hold, not just the Governor accountable, but every state elected official through the establishment of a recall process. There must be a high bar to start a recall to ensure that abuse of the recall process doesn’t happen.
Automatic Voter Registration – One way to hold government more accountable is greater citizen participation. Many states have started to implement automatic voter registration and it has worked well. When you turn 18, the Secretary of State would send you a letter providing details of the registration, how to sign up for a political party, and even an opt out process in case the person didn’t want to register at all. Basically, it makes it easier for the person and provides a simple way to fulfill our civic duty.
CUT WASTEFUL SPENDING When the state budget sits at over 700 plus pages, it’s easy for people to overlook the fine print. I am one of the few legislators that actually requests a physical copy of the budget to go line by line to see what is needed and what isn’t. As an entire state government, we need to take a red pen and go through each department budget to prioritize spending on essentials and critical services people rely on.
Limit Bloat - This administration’s need to add high level officials costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Administrative redundancy bloats government. Using that money for essential programs or tax relief is a higher priority.
New Structure - If we move to a Unicameral Legislature, aka a super Senate and no House, we could streamline processes, improve efficiencies, while saving taxpayers over $11 million a year.
Eliminate Constituent Allowance – Every year Senators get $3,000 a year and Representatives get $1,500 a year to ‘talk’ to constituents. While I think anything that encourages greater participation in the process and information out to the community about what is happening in Augusta is a good thing, it is not the best use of taxpayer funds at this time. It’s not a critical expense. I can communicate with you without the allowance and put that money towards good use.