Voters’ Guide: Governor of Maine
by Chris Busby
For this year’s gubernatorial Voters’ Guide, we tailored the questions to gauge how progressive the candidates’ positions on economic issues are. For example, to what extent are they willing to raise taxes on corporations and the rich to help small businesses and the poor? Do they think electricity and Internet connectivity are, like water and garbage collection, basic services that should be provided by local government, rather than giant national or international conglomerates? And how much courage do they have to take on the types of structural reforms necessary to reduce income and wealth inequality — for example, by changing the way private businesses divide profits, or keeping public money out of the hands of private banks?
The two “independent” candidates in this four-way race (those not currently enrolled in a political party), Terry Hayes and Alan Caron, both agreed to answer these questions for readers of The Bollard. Neither Democrat Janet Mills nor Republican Shawn Moody give a shit what you think, as evidenced by their unwillingness to participate. That’s too bad, since neither Hayes nor Caron has a real chance to win this election, and Moody actually applies some enlightened Marxist principles to his own business, Moody’s Collision Centers, so it would have been insightful to see how much farther he’s willing to go to establish the kind of Socialist Nirvana we suspect he dreams of inhabiting.
Hayes is our state’s Treasurer — the bureaucrat who administers and safeguards our tax dollars and any other booty we may have stashed away in old chests buried in the sand. A resident of Buckfield, she served in the Maine House of Representatives as a Democrat from 2006 until 2014, including a stint as Assistant Minority Leader.
Caron is a political consultant who lives in Freeport. As we noted in an article this month, “Alan Caron’s Greasy Secret,” he largely abandoned his advocacy on behalf of the poor, prisoners and other marginalized groups during the 1970s and ’80s in favor of high-paying consulting gigs for less savory characters, like industrial egg kingpin Jack DeCoster.
A poll conducted this summer showed Mills and Moody were neck and neck with about 40 percent support each, while Hayes and Caron were both on the low single digits. Unlike the races for federal offices this fall, the gubernatorial race will not be decided by ranked-choice voting. This has led more than a few pundits to predict that the outcome will be determined by how many potential Democratic voters opt to support one of the left-leaning independents over that party’s standard-bearer, Mills. If Hayes and Caron collectively draw enough votes away from the current Attorney General, Mills, who’s done little to excite the electorate, Moody will waltz into the Blaine House just like his good pal and political mentor Paul LePage did in 2010 and 2014.
Do you support Question 1, the citizen-initiated referendum that would raise taxes on wealthy individuals to fund in-home care for elderly and disabled Mainers?
Alan Caron: No. Said he doesn’t like referendums that link essential needs to tax increases.
Terry Hayes: No. “I don’t like questions that ask if you want X as long as someone else is paying for it,” she said. “I don’t think we should do tax policy at the ballot box.”
Do you support mandatory paid sick leave for all Maine workers?
Do you support the establishment of a state bank, similar to the Bank of North Dakota, that uses our collective treasure to fund public works, lend to local enterprises, and provide affordable mortgages to Mainers?
Caron: Is open to considering such a bank, or integrating existing public funds to provide more loans or investments to small businesses and start-ups.
Hayes: No. The Maine State Treasurer said she believes the fact the state keeps large sums of public money in banks that do business in Maine already serves that purpose.
How much will you increase taxes on the wealthiest Mainers, second-homeowners and corporations, and what will we spend all that money on first?
Caron: Opposes state tax increases; favors increases on the national level so our state is not put at a competitive disadvantage.
Hayes: Has no plans to raise taxes on any specific group; favors a comprehensive economic development plan that may include changes to the tax code.
Should corporations like General Dynamics that spend profits to buy their own stock get any state tax breaks, ever? [See our February 2018 story about state and local tax breaks for General Dynamics subsidiary Bath Iron Works, “Ship of Fools,” for more on this topic.]
Caron: Supports tax breaks only for businesses that can demonstrate they are using the money to create or maintain jobs; favors tax breaks for smaller enterprises.
Hayes: Any policy on tax breaks would have to be part of a comprehensive economic plan for the entire state, which she would try to develop during her first year in office, in collaboration with others.
How will you crack down on the white-collar crime wave (e.g., medical-billing fraud, corporate criminals at companies like Volkswagen)?
Caron: Recognizes that fraud and other white-collar financial crimes are a much larger problem than small-time cheating, like improper use of welfare benefits. “The hypocrisy of many fiscal conservatives is stunning” in this regard, he said.
Hayes: Agrees that these types of crimes should be the priority and focus of the Attorney General, rather than, say, “a mother who might get $10 or $20 more in [welfare] benefits.” Also thinks lawmakers should have more discretion over the use of multi-state settlement money than the AG has when such agreements are reached, though she does not criticize Mills for her actions in this regard.
What steps will you take during your first term to make electricity and Internet service publicly owned and operated utilities?
Caron: Is an advocate for public investment in Internet infrastructure, especially in areas of the state that are not well served at present by private providers. Is also a strong advocate for the decentralization of electricity production and storage, including incentives to promote residential and small-scale commercial solar energy use that frees people from reliance on the grid. Solar and other renewable energy sources are “the disruptive technology of the time, and we need to get ahead of it.”
Hayes: Has no plans to change the way either type of utility is administered.
Should municipalities like Portland be able to levy a “local-option” meals and/or lodging tax to soak the foodies and tourists and lessen the burden on local taxpayers?
Caron: Yes. Observes that so-called “service center” communities like Portland bear an extra financial burden, and said “great ideas happen at the local level,” so local governments should have a source of money to fund innovative public initiatives.
Hayes: No, “not unless it’s part of an overall restructuring of our tax system.”
What tax and other financial incentives are you ready to implement to encourage the formation of more worker, producer and consumer co-ops?
Caron: Has no particular mechanism in mind, but is “a big fan of co-op development” and believes cooperative enterprises are “a growing wave of the future.”
Hayes: Has no particular incentives in mind, but thinks co-ops are a “positive foundational piece” of the economy and would want to ensure there are no barriers to the development of cooperative enterprises that are unique to that type of business — “there should be a level playing field,” she said.
How will you be provide tuition-free public higher education for Maine residents and pay both full-time and adjunct professors a much more livable wage?
Caron: Is an advocate for providing Mainers with “two years of no-cost college” at public institutions, as well as interest-free education loans that would be forgiven in whole or in part, depending how long the graduate resides in Maine. Said he was unaware that professors are poorly compensated, and is willing to look into that.
Hayes: Opposes tuition-free higher education. Said students should have “skin in the game” by paying for college. Is open to looking for ways to reduce the cost of higher education.