Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

The Maine college student’s guide to the gubernatorial election

Posted on October 28, 2010 in Election coverage
By USM Free Press

The Free Press and the Maine Campus, the University of Maine’s student newspaper, posed a series of questions to the five gubernatorial candidates who will be on the ballot Nov. 2. Independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell responded by e-mail, and their answers are directly quoted below. The answers from Republican Paul LePage and independents Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott are taken from campaign websites and quotes recorded by Maine Campus staff.

HIGHER EDUCATION

How specifically will you make our university and community college system more effective?

Cutler: I have called for merging the two systems into one, creating savings that … will lower costs, increase collaboration and provide a more seamless experience for student[s] as they move forward with their education.

Mitchell: We must make sure we are aligning our educational system with our expanding job opportunities. I will appoint visionary and effective trustees who will ensure that administrative costs are minimized and that stronger coordination is archived between the community colleges and the university. I support two strong separate systems with distinctive missions. The use of technology will become a hallmark of our systems.

Do you think the University of Maine System funding formula should be changed?

Cutler: I think everything needs to be on the table. Each campus should have a well-defined mission and role in the system and each should play to its strengths. Funding should reflect those considerations.

Mitchell: The funding formula for the university should be reviewed constantly to ensure that funds are distributed in the most effective and efficient manner.

What new types of curricula are needed in the system to better fit Maine’s changing job climate?

Cutler: There needs to be a better alignment between curricula and the needs of Maine’s economy. We need to make sure the curricula are keeping pace with technology and the knowledge economy. In addition, in a state where hospitality is the number one industry, I would like to see the university offer stronger programs in hospitality.

Mitchell: What we teach in our schools should be directly linked to our economic development strategy. I think the curriculum should constantly evolve. We must educate our students not only in technical skills, but also in creative and critical thinking skills. We need problem solvers and critical thinkers to create businesses in addition to working in them.

Do you think the system, which is much costlier than the average American public university, provides students with good value for their money?

Cutler: By and large, yes, but I think we can do better. We have to make higher education more affordable for Maine students and offer the kinds of programs and experiences that will make Maine students want to stay here for their education. While our economy has been flat for the past decade, the cost of a university education in Maine has risen 38 percent. We have to start bending the cost curve down for Maine students and families.

Mitchell: I believe that the system provides students with access to an excellent education. That said, we must stay competitive by looking for ways to lower the cost, and improve the quality, of the education that the system delivers.

We have multiple public colleges across our state. Are they actually worth the strain on our state budget, or do they help our state in the long run?

Cutler: We have seven university campuses, seven community college campuses and scores of local education centers affiliated with these systems. The two systems report to two presidents, who report to two boards, who each report to the governor. We have built a higher education system that we simply can’t afford, but it’s not as simple as having too many campuses. It’s a question of how we use all of our resources most efficiently and for the maximum benefit of students and the people of Maine.

Mitchell: Yes. As a large, geographically diverse state we have an obligation to give all of our citizens access to a world class education. These campuses are economic engine[s] in their communities. They can use technology and share resources to achieve savings.

LePage on higher education: During a forum at UMaine on Oct. 5, he said higher education is the “key element” for both success and prosperity. He also described his plan for a five-year high school plan through which a student could draw on the more personalized support system found in secondary education while beginning a career in higher education where the education process is sometimes more impersonal. He said this plan would enable Maine students to achieve degrees at a lower cost. He reiterated this plan during the Bangor Gubernatorial Debate Oct. 11 at Bangor High School.

“Right now we’re creating average students that are as close to the bottom as they are to the top,” he said. “We need some tough love in the school system.”

Moody on higher education: Moody’s campaign website claims “Maine’s educational system needs to develop student and educator success because in the end, that’s what really matters.”

On his website, Moody says he is against charter schools and wants to see greater emphasis on vocational education in Maine. He acknowledges the advantage of higher education but believes more emphasis should be placed on secondary education. Moody also believes more assistance should be given to non-college bound high school graduates to help them become productive members of society. Moody emphasizes wasteful spending in education, citing pay increases for school administrators that exceed raises for teachers. Moody pledges to remedy this discrepancy.

“It troubles me that our community college system is thriving, yet the state proposes to reduce its subsidy in order to help offset the state’s university system which is suffering from decreased enrollment and higher operating costs,” Moody says on his website.

Scott on higher education: On his campaign website, Scott wrote about creating opportunity for alternative education in Maine. Specifically, Scott described a system whereby a charter school would be paired with a private university.

According to Scott’s website, “Maine must meet its obligation to fund 55 percent of local educational cost. This must be done by reducing the size and cost of state government, not increasing taxes on Maine families and businesses. By funding education at 55 percent, State government will enable communities to lower property tax burden on Maine families and businesses.”

ECONOMY

What specifically will you do to create economically sustainable jobs?

Cutler: I will lower the cost of living and doing business in Maine—in particular, the high costs of electricity, healthcare and government services. These are the biggest barriers to investment in Maine, and investment — by Maine companies and those from outside of Maine — is the only way we are going to create jobs.

Mitchell: The jobs of the future are going to come from three places: our traditional industries, renewable energy and emerging industries (precision manufacturing, biotechnology, etc.). We need to change our economic development strategy so we focus on growing entire industries rather than helping one company at a time. There are a lot of small businesses that would expand if they could get an investor to take a chance on them. I want to expand the Seed Capital Tax Credit to help attract investment to these companies. We also have to do something about regulations. I would free up businesses who can innovate in order to meet the state’s environmental standard. If someone comes up with a more cost effective way to meet environmental protection laws, the state should not prevent them from doing so.

Would you support raising or lowering taxes?

Cutler: I am opposed to raising broad-based taxes and would love to be able to lower taxes, but I can’t promise that right now. We are facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall over the next two years and we are going to have to squeeze every last dollar of savings we can find out of the next budget. Once we have shown Maine people that we have done that, we then need to have a statewide conversation about comprehensive tax reform—income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes. I want to create a tax system that is fairer and flatter and sustainable over the long term, and I would like to eventually cut the marginal income tax rate by more than half.

Mitchell: Generally, taxes should be as low as possible for government to provide the services that are needed. Maine’s income tax is too high. It hurts small businesses and families alike. I would support lowering the income tax in a way that makes the overall tax code more progressive. It is important to note that if you lower a tax, you have to pay for it either by finding new revenues or cutting services. I would engage in a conversation with the people of Maine to work out a way to pay for a reduced income tax rate.

What would you do to lower the cost of healthcare?

Cutler: We can bring health care costs under control in Maine by providing essential health care services for all Maine citizens through Maine Wellness, a new statewide framework within which coverage and care will be provided at a price that Maine businesses and taxpayers can afford, while preserving individual choice and the important relationship between patients and caregivers. As with education, the cost of health care has risen much faster than Maine families’ ability to pay for it. My program will borrow from the highly successful efforts undertaken by Cianbro, Hussey and other large Maine employers, who have succeeded dramatically in controlling costs and providing incentives for people to stop smoking, to lose weight and to take better care of themselves. Maine Wellness will be built on the foundation of Maine’s strong system of non-profit hospitals and committed physicians and caregivers.

Mitchell: I will lower health care costs in three ways: put the emphasis on wellness by providing incentives for prevention instead of just paying for treatments, creating health insurance exchanges so businesses and individuals can pool their resources to buy lower-cost health insurance and bringing stake holders together to set a global spending target that is below the national rate of inflation.

How does the University of Maine System fit into your plans for Maine’s economy?

Cutler: The University of Maine System is critical to the future of our economy in terms of creating an educated workforce and providing the research and development that will help spur economic growth and new job opportunities.

Mitchell: The university and the community colleges are driving forces in our economy. Without a highly educated, highly trained workforce, we cannot attract good paying jobs. They also serve as centers of research that help Maine companies innovate and thrive in an ever-changing economy.

(Student submitted) I really love our Maine artisans and crafters, but they often slip through the cracks in our economy. What could you do to promote the arts in our society and economy?

Cutler: I have created a plan specifically for the creative economy that is on my website. For too long, our vision of “the arts” has been through a narrow lens that relegates creative endeavor to a rarified niche of academia, museums, galleries and performance halls. The creative economy is not just about the production and consumption of visual and performing arts; it is about the unique and innovative ideas, technologies and output of virtually every sector of our economy, and it is the key to our future success. It is my intention to provide the leadership to make sure that the creative economy is recognized and supported as a vital part of our overall economic strategy.

Mitchell: We can support the creative economy in a couple of ways. First: we should make sure that our art, music and drama programs are maintained in our schools so students with the talent, interest and dedication can hone their skills. Second: we need to incorporate the creative economy into our overall economic development program. In today’s world, where technology allows many people to live and work just about anywhere, we need to make sure that we offer the highest quality of life possible. A thriving arts community will strengthen our economy and make Maine a more desirable place to live.

LePage on the economy: According to LePage’s campaign website, he will institute a flat 5 percent personal income tax rate for Mainers with incomes of $30,000 or more and a 5 percent corporate income tax rate for businesses earning between $30,000 and $500,000. According to the website, LePage wants to examine the spending of every state government agency in order to eliminate waste in what he sees as “duplicate government programs, questionable travel reimbursements, and departments that have nothing to show for the millions in tax dollars they receive.”

During the UMaine forum, LePage said he wanted to “unleash the job creators and let them provide the necessary private sector jobs” that would stimulate Maine’s economy.

Moody on the economy: Moody often cites his own business acumen, having established and developed Moody Collision Centers. On his campaign website, Moody cites retention and restoration as “two key components to renewed economic growth and prosperity.”

Moody asserted that the economy would improve if more students graduated from high school.

“Think of the societal impact of 20 percent of students dropping out of school,” he said, explaining that people without a high school diploma are more likely to be drains on the economy than assets to it.

Scott on the economy: Scott has touted his voluntary 32-hour work week program at multiple debates and forums. According to this plan, state employees would only work 32 hours each week, and the work environment would be results-oriented. Scott cites 3M and Google as successful implementations of the results-oriented work environment, suggesting Maine’s economy would benefit from a more creative approach to business than what is currently practiced.

During the UMaine forum, Scott stressed the importance of developing employment opportunities for Mainers who lack a college degree and suggested structural engineering and backyard farming with year-round growing facilities as possible impetuses to the economy.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Do you think Maine should have the death penalty?

Cutler: No. I think lifetime imprisonment without parole is the appropriate maximum penalty.

Mitchell: No.

Will you seek to repeal the medical marijuana law or continue to uphold the law?

Cutler: I won’t seek to repeal it, but it should be carefully monitored to make sure it is working as intended.

Mitchell: I will uphold the law.

Is Maine a state too reliant on social welfare programs?

Cutler: Yes. I want to create a welfare system with integrity for taxpayers and recipients alike, structured to transition people quickly and effectively from assistance to gainful employment.

There is legitimate concern that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in recent years has lost its proper focus on transitioning able-bodied people off assistance so they can rejoin the workforce. We have to do better, both for recipient and taxpayers. At the same time, we decided long ago as a nation and as a state that we should extend decent and modest help to our fellow citizens in temporary economic distress, and also to those who—for reasons beyond their control such as childhood, advanced age, physical or mental disability or serious illness—cannot fully fend for themselves. That is the basis of all legitimate programs of welfare—and the common decency of our state supports this principle.

Mitchell: No. We need a safety net that helps people out when they are down and provides services to the elderly and those with disabilities. We need to provide education and training to people so they can get jobs with livable wages. Maine has a shortage of jobs, not a shortage of work ethic.

What is your position on the proposed casino in Oxford?

Cutler: I will be voting against it. I oppose the expansion of gambling in Maine. People come to Maine for our quality of life and our quality places. Offering more gambling won’t build our brand and help to differentiate Maine from other places. In fact, it simply will mask and dilute the magic that draws people to Maine.

Economic development needs to be about identifying our core competitive advantages and pursuing a focused strategy to invest in those advantages in order to create jobs, incomes and casinos enrich a few at the expense of many. They are a sign that we are giving up on ourselves and our state, and I will not do that.

Mitchell: I am opposed to the Oxford County casino proposal.

How do you feel about the fact that gay marriage in the state of Maine was overturned, and does that put Maine in a bad light as an up and coming state?

Cutler: I support marriage equality as a matter of constitutional right. I regret that our state overturned the law and I am committed seeing it enacted and sustained. Maine is a state that has always stood for individual rights and liberties, and I don’t think repeal of the marriage equality law is an accurate reflection of who we are as a state.

Mitchell: Voting in support of marriage equality was one of the proudest votes I have cast. As governor, I will continue to lead the fight to end discrimination in our marriage laws.

LePage on social issues: According to LePage’s campaign website, he will re-evaluate the “eligibility requirements for welfare benefits to ensure those who are able to work are not using resources that should be reserved for Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.”

LePage’s website also specifies his stances against gay marriage, against abortion and against “legislations that would allow illegal or noncitizen residents from voting in Maine elections, receiving tax-payer funded handouts or running for office.”

Moody on social issues: According to Moody’s campaign website, he would work to lower Maine’s unemployment rate to be at most 6 percent of the state’s population. He also wants to improve Maine’s outlook by increasing the number of college graduates who stay in-state and by decreasing the number of high school students who drop out before graduation. By increasing the percentage of educated Mainers, Moody believes many of the state’s issues will be alleviated.

Scott on social issues: According to Scott’s campaign website, he will work to propose a law that will protect all Maine’s people but “will not force marriage on Maine’s voters.”

Scott’s website does not specify his stance on the citizens’ initiative regarding a casino in Oxford County; however, it does say he will “work with Maine’s legislature to create a casino gambling law that places Maine’s best interest at the forefront of legal gambling. This legislation will impact every Maine citizen; I will work to get this done right.”

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

Would you support offshore drilling in Maine?

Cutler: No way. I have said that anyone who wants to drill off the coast of Maine will have to drill through me first.

Mitchell: No. It would be irresponsible to risk destroying the Gulf of Maine when the opportunity to power our state with renewable energy is at our doorstep.

What would you do to lower energy costs?

Cutler: Maine has an abundance of clean, renewable energy resources, including our forests and farmlands, onshore and offshore wind, tidal and solar power. But I am tired of seeing so much of the electricity generated in Maine exported out of state to create jobs and incomes somewhere else. I want to put some of that electricity to work right here in Maine.

Lowering the cost of electricity is one of the most important things we can do to create new jobs and attract new investment to Maine. That is why I want to create an Energy Finance Authority—not a big new bureaucracy, but a small commission—that will use low-cost, tax-exempt financing and public-private partnerships to build needed energy facilities, develop our renewable energy resources, invest in energy efficiency and sell lower-priced electricity directly to Maine businesses.

Mitchell: We have to do a few things to bring down energy costs. Off the bat, we need to continue to invest in an aggressive weatherization program. Conservation is the most cost-effective way to lower energy bills. Second, we need to capitalize on our natural resources and harness the wind, the sun and the tides. Green energy offers us a tremendous opportunity. Not only can we lower our carbon footprint but we can revolutionize our economy by developing the technologies at our universities, build the turbines in our factories and enjoy the benefits of the cleaner, cheaper power that we generate.

What is your position on onshore wind farms?

Cutler: I support onshore wind if projects are properly reviewed, with ample public input, and are appropriate for the areas in which they will be located.

Mitchell: We should continue to develop onshore wind in a responsible way. I do not want to see a wind turbine on every mountain top or along the Appalachian Trail, but we can properly site them so that communities and the state at large benefit from these exciting opportunities.

Would you support nuclear power in the state?

Cutler: We still don’t know what to do with the waste and it would take decades to get a new plant approved. We have to get on with the task of diversifying our energy supply and lowering our energy cost in other ways.

Mitchell: No. Until there is a safe way to discard the waste we cannot responsibly pursue nuclear power. Besides, the wind in the Gulf of Maine has the potential to produce more power than 20 to 40 nuclear power plants.

If UMaine is successful working within the field of green energy then the state will be viewed as a leader in the field of study. What will you do with that acknowledgment?

Cutler: I will proudly promote it all over this country and around the world, and I will aggressively seek public and private investment to help it become even stronger and more prominent.

Mitchell: Maine is already a leader in the field of green energy. As governor I will make sure we stay there. Right now, Midwestern states are trying to build transmission lines to the power hungry urban centers of New York, Pennsylvania and the other Mid-Atlantic states. That is our competition. By continuing to invest in technology, transmission and generation, I will make sure that Maine gets there first; this is too big an opportunity to lose.

LePage on energy and the environment: LePage’s campaign website lists biomass, wind, co-generation, nuclear, solar, tidal and hydropower as viable energy sources for Maine.

During the Bangor Gubernatorial Debate, LePage addressed the high cost of electricity in Maine.

“The first thing we need to do is put people before politics,” he said. LePage said he would evaluate every source of energy used in Maine on the basis of its environmental impact and on the basis of lowering the residential and commercial rates paid for energy bills.

“Escaping fossil fuels is going to be very, very difficult,” he said.

Moody on energy and the environment: Moody’s campaign website lists hydro, wind, biomass, tidal, solar power and methane gas as possible energy sources for Maine.

During the Bangor Gubernatorial Debate, Moody cited energy-saving measures that have been implemented at Moody Collision Centers.

“We talk about generation; let’s talk about conservation,” Moody said. “We can’t afford in our generation to not look at alternative energy sources and reduce dependency on foreign oil.”

Scott on energy and the environment: Scott’s campaign website highlights his experience as a small business owner in what he terms a “high technology” industry, which has developed jobs with a low environmental impact.

“The important thing is we learn from the mistakes of our past,” Scott said during the Bangor Gubernatorial Debate. He continued to say he would look at the ISO New England electricity network and renegotiate its terms with Maine.

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