LEWISTON – Four Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination for Maine governor, which will be decided at the primary election June 8. Here’s a closer look at what they have to say about several state and local issues. Their responses were edited for length.
Do you support gay marriage?
Do you support the new tax reform law?
McGowan: At large, I am opposed to it, but the racino seems to fit into Bangor.
Mitchell: I do not see casinos as economic development and I will not be supporting, specifically, the Oxford County one.
Rowe: There are better ways to stimulate our economy than gambling or casinos.
Scarcelli: I won’t be supporting the Oxford County casino. In general, I think it’s the quick hit in economic development and we can’t afford quick hits.
State cuts and local impacts
All the candidates have said they support making further cuts in the state budget, but what will that mean for municipalities and local school budgets?
McGowan: There are more partnerships and more regionalizations that can be done, but it is very important that it comes through leadership and cooperation from the local communities, rather than dictates from higher government. What I’m hearing is that the relationships between the state and the locals is at an all-time low and I would do everything that I can to work with and improve that. People need to be brought in so that everybody is at the table.
Mitchell: I was a selectwoman for nine years and I know the impact when the state has to cut back. During this period, the state has had to look at how it is delivering programs, what’s most important and what can be cut. Lewiston-Auburn is a shining example of what communities can do to ameliorate the impact of state cuts as they’ve worked together for years. They didn’t wait until this recession. They got it.
Rowe: When we substantially reduce GPA (general purpose aid to schools) and revenue-sharing, in most cases we’re simply shifting the burden to the local property tax, to the municipal property tax. So as governor I will work with the counties and with the municipalities to stop the cost shifting. Counties and municipalities are political subdivisions of the state; we’re all one government, the state of Maine. We have to work better together.We all need to be working together because we have a common goal, and that is providing adequate services to the people of Maine.
Scarcelli: We are going to have to do things differently, but we cannot be penny wise and pound foolish. There are lots of things we can do in the structure of school budgets at a state level that could help put more resources at the community level. We also need to look at whether the county level structure is still working today. Jail consolidation has cost communities a tremendous amount of money and we need to look at whether or not the state may in fact need to be running the jails.
Improved rail for Lewiston-Auburn
McGowan: Rail is the key to our future. It’s 30 percent less (expensive) to ship goods by rail than it is by truck. We need to rebuild and recapture the vision of a rail system that is efficient, prompt and manageable. The cheapest way to ship things is by large ship in a large cargo container. If you could link this to Lewiston-Auburn (via rail), then that’s the key.
Mitchell: It’s a very high priority and getting that (legislative) bond passed with the 2/3’s vote that included Lewiston should be a strong indicator about how high a priority that is for me. The Republicans insisted that the bond be reduced or they wouldn’t vote for it, so we tried to find ways to do that, but Lewiston rail stayed firmly placed in that bond package
Rowe: Increasing and improving rail operations would be a top priority in a Rowe administration. We can no longer support the roads and bridges we have, we need to move the freight off our roads and bridges and onto rail. Certainly, Lewiston and Auburn need to be connected via high-speed rail and also I support an inter-model facility at Lewiston-Auburn, which will improve connections for automobiles, for buses and for air travelers.
Scarcelli: It’s nice to have rail, but as a consumer, people use rail for passenger service if it’s faster and cheaper, so we have to realize it has to be competitive to work. I think rail needs to be in our future, but we absolutely have got to fix our road infrastructure, first and foremost.
Wind power development
McGowan: It’s important that when people want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars (in wind power development) that they can see a path to project completion. I think that 90 percent of the people in Maine support wind power development and I think we need to make sure we still have high levels of support after a decade of doing this. That means we site it correctly, we link it correctly with the transmission lines and that Maine people get a good first shot at cheap, renewable electricity.
Mitchell: We now have a responsible process that does balance the environment with the need for green energy, which is also an environmental issue. Our geography is on our side at this point, and in the Gulf of Maine we really do have the best place to put these off-shore wind turbines, and we are ahead of everybody.
Rowe: Wind power is important for the future of Maine’s economy because the only way that we are going to become competitive is to reduce health care costs and energy costs. And wind is going to be a major producer of electricity going forward, and we have substantial capacity in Maine, both on land and off-shore.
Scarcelli: My concern about the current streamlining that’s taken place is we’re putting a lot of eggs in that basket and I want to be cautious about our energy portfolio and make sure that we’re spreading ourselves out in a way that protects us and ultimately reduces the cost of electricity in Maine. We need to be looking at LNG (liquefied natural gas), we need to be looking at distributive generation, we need to be looking at the corridor that we may be able to negotiate with Hydro-Quebec.