We're losing jobs in Maine right now, while other parts of the country are beginning to recover from the recession. Many of these job losses are coming from the public sector. I believe that government should be the employer of last resort -- that job growth in the private sector is best. State employees are not to blame for our fiscal problems. They pay taxes and spend money, they contribute to our economy. With unemployment as high as it is now, this is not the time for hasty and ill conceived layoffs of our hard working friends and neighbors. We should assess employment in state government during better economic times. Then if it makes sense to downsize, those employees can find new work. Adding to the unemployment rolls isn't fiscally responsible, it just shifts our expenses from one balance sheet to another and causes hardship on hard-working people and their families.
In the private sector, there are a couple ways to create jobs. One is the responsibility of every Maine resident, and that is to buy goods at local small businesses rather than big box stores. When you buy something from a small business owner, they keep most of that money in-state through their payroll and through their supply chain. If you buy something at a big box store, much of that money goes out of Maine. I am a strong supporter of the Buy Local movement. The second way to address this issue is through regulation. Many of our state's regulations are designed to help large corporations at the expense of local businesses. This method of one-size-fits-all regulation works when you have the resources to navigate the fine print, but not when you're a small business owner. We need to change our regulations to make sense for everyone, big and small.
Recently, we have seen Governor LePage unveil a budget fix that would remove the elderly from their care facilities, and purge MaineCare of 65,000 low-income people who need health insurance, among other things. Meanwhile, the Legislature passed a $200 million tax cut directed primarily at the wealthiest Mainers. Ironically, the amount required to save our health care budget is about the same as that tax cut. Our tax code should be designed to work for everyone.
Nearly one in two Americans is in or near poverty, while the richest 1% continues to gain an ever-larger share of the pie. We must stop the redistribution of wealth away from the middle class. Money in the pocket of the middle class buys products and services, and this creates jobs. It puts people back into homes, and this raises our property values and the quality of our neighborhoods.Recently we have seen a talking point that "47% of Americans do not pay any taxes" -- but this is simply not true. That 47% pays property tax, sales tax, payroll tax, gas tax, and excise tax. Many of those people are elderly people on Social Security. I've met some of them already -- people with plumbing that is rusting out, who struggle to fill their oil tank. They have paid into the system all their working lives, I think they have already paid enough. We must not balance our budget on the backs of the people who can least afford it, and must insist that those with the means to pay contribute their fair share.
If we want to save money, we should reform programs that don't work. I have no intention of targeting the meager $400 check a single mom gets to help feed, clothe, and house her child. I think there is money to be saved in the Department of Health and Human Services by only paying for programs and treatments that have shown they are effective. We should invest where we know we can improve, such as in Child Protective Services and child abuse prevention. They are understaffed and underfunded, and our children keep slipping through the cracks. If we want to protect our children, we need to have the funding to intervene before tragedy occurs, and to help parents get to where they need to be in order to get their children back. The most responsible investment DHHS can make is in helping parents become better at caring for their children.
The Electoral Process
I am a Clean Elections candidate, as was the vast majority of the current Maine Legislature. Despite its flaws, the system works. Candidates are able to do what I am doing right now, which is spend time reaching out and talking to people instead of dialing for dollars. I once spoke to a member of Congress who said the day after they're elected, they're raising money for the next campaign. This is not an acceptable way to run a government on the federal or the state level. Due to a recent Supreme Court decision, our Clean Elections system has lost its matching funds provision. I would support legislation that allowed candidates to collect more checks from more people in order to receive more funding. The system has allowed people like me to run for office, I am grateful for the opportunity, and I will fight to improve it for future elections.
Corporate control of our electoral process is something that goes beyond state government to the federal level, but it is important to mention nonetheless. When moneyed out-of-state special interests have the power to buy entire legislative bodies, there is something wrong with the process. The biggest reason I support Clean Elections is because it allows me to represent you, not the corporations. I am not for sale to the highest bidder and it is thanks to Clean Elections that I can even run at all -- because I could not ethically accept money from people who would later demand favors.
Despite the fact I am a proud Democrat, I also agree that the two-party system has failed in a variety of ways. We've gotten bogged down and unable to act on many important issues that face us. I would support reforming our elections to give greater capability to third party and independent candidates to run. The City of Portland recently had great success with using Ranked-Choice Voting to elect their mayor, and 15 candidates ran. Now that's choice!
I am a believer in science, and science says quite clearly that climate change is real, it is man-made, and it threatens our planet. Any responsible effort that we can make toward reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is a good one. I support the citizen's initiative that would require more of our energy to be produced by renewable sources, and oppose attempts to remove Maine from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Maine also has the oldest housing stock in the country, and investment in weatherization is helpful to homeowners and lowers costs for low-income heating assistance. On a federal level, energy security is homeland security. The less dependent we are on other nations for our energy needs, the more we are able to determine our own path in the world.
I believe that access to health care is a right and not a privilege. While I do not approve of the method by which the Affordable Care Act gets us there, I also recognize that change of this magnitude is going to take time and it won't always be easy. We are the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide access to care to all its citizens and I am happy to see this changing. Until the ACA takes effect, what we have is a tiered system that rations coverage based on cost. People with good plans can access care when they need it. Others have health insurance with co-payments and deductibles that are too high to pay, and so people go untreated despite having coverage.
Still others have no health insurance at all, and do not seek care until they have to go to the emergency room, which has to care for them by law. But that coverage is not free, others foot the bill in their health insurance premiums. Universal care balances the risk and makes it shared by all -- sick and healthy alike. We must work within the framework of the Affordable Care Act to develop a health insurance exchange that provides affordable care to everyone. DirigoHealth is a program that has flaws, but is headed in the right direction -- let's start there and move forward.
Often ignored is access to dental care. Over a third of this country has no dental insurance, and many others only have small amounts of coverage per year that are wiped out by any major procedure. This too must change. Along with universal health care should come universal dental care. Until then, MaineCare should be expanded to cover more than just tooth extractions for adults. This is a fairly inexpensive service that provides greater quality of life for people. We made strides with the passage of a referendum question that provided funding to start a dental school and clinic in Maine, but more must be done.
I understand that there are people with concerns about the right of equal access to marriage for everyone. That being said, I believe in the right for everyone to be able to marry who they love. The referendum currently proposed would permit everyone to have that right, while also not forcing a church to perform marriages that would go against their religious beliefs. I support that referendum wholeheartedly.