In this hotly-contested race for governor, Eliot Cutler stands out from the bitter partisan politics as the best overall candidate.
The Republican candidate, Paul LePage, was effective at tapping into the rage of an electorate struggling with near 10 percent unemployment. It made for exciting television. But it also made him incoherent, and ultimately, an embarrassment to Maine on the national stage.
The Democratic candidate, Libby Mitchell, ran a strong campaign and we applaud many of her ideas. If we were choosing a candidate based solely on their education plan, Mitchell would likely be our choice. But ultimately, her other ideas failed to measure up to the magnitude of reform Maine needs to spur job growth, and her insistence on touting her years of experience in the state house failed to inspire faith in her ability to change state government.
(We would like to acknowledge that Mitchell was the only candidate to reply to a questionnaire we distributed to all five candidates, proving that she respects college students enough to reply to their e-mails.)
We commend Cutler for recognizing the fact that governors cannot directly create jobs. At a time of high unemployment, other candidates have based large parts of their campaigns on pushing forth the notion that they will somehow create jobs. This is somewhat dishonest, and we feel that Cutler has taken a more realistic approach. What a governor can do is help to create the conditions necessary to stimulate economic growth in our state. Cutler recognizes that the high costs of doing business in Maine discourage new industries from locating here. He proposes reducing these costs, including healthcare and electricity costs, to entice businesses to invest in Maine. In addition, he proposes cutting government expenditures, which will help to reduce the tax burden on Maine businesses. We feel that this is a common sense approach to economic stimulus in our state.
In addition, Cutler recognizes that cutting taxes across the board is not the route to fixing our state’s budget deficit. It’s easy, and politically attractive, to make this campaign promise, but it is an irresponsible policy. Cutler has promised to make our state government more efficient and more cost-effective. We feel that this is a much more desirable approach to correcting our state’s budget. We commend Cutler not making (empty) promises of wide-ranging tax cuts.
Cutler has also stressed the importance of improving our state’s education system, and we agree that there is a need for reform. He recognizes that our teachers are underpaid, and realizes there is not enough incentive to bring and keep quality educators in our schools. One particularly creative idea is Cutler’s education plan to change the lock-step salary schedule in favor of a system that rewards educators who provide the state’s children with superior service.
We believe that although giving teachers an incentive to improve the quality of education sounds good on paper, it could be very difficult to implement a merit-based pay system for teachers and caution Cutler that the gauge of a good teacher isn’t always reflected in test scores.
Cutler acknowledges the key role played by public schools in our states many small communities by not supporting mass consolidation. Cutler also believes that our state’s community colleges and public universities need to work more closely together to deliver the secondary education necessary for the success of our generation and future generations. Greater coordination among these institutions is a key part of his education plan. However we encourage Cutler to recognize the very different roles university and community colleges play in this state; one is not interchangeable with the other.
Cutler has devoted nearly his entire career to public service. He helped former Maine Senator Ed Muskie craft both the Clean Air (1963) and Clean Water (1972) Acts. These two hugely important pieces of national policy have been instrumental in cleaning up Maine’s environment. The Androscoggin River, for example, was once so polluted by the paper mills along its waters that it was, at times, impossible to even see the water under the layer of pollutants. Today, thanks largely to the Clean Water Act, the Androscoggin is better known for its recreational opportunities than for its pollution levels.
Following his time with Senator Muskie, Cutler went on to become the Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science in the White House Office of Management and Budget. This experience overseeing national budgets will be helpful in trying to fix Maine’s own budgetary shortcomings.