Mark Dion on the Issues
Before you choose someone as Maine’s next governor, you need to know where that candidate stands on issues important to our state’s future. I have tried to be as specific as possible about my goals and programs for the next four years. Governing Maine well means not that one person decides, but that everyone in Maine has a chance to help create consensus. I welcome your comments, criticisms and thoughts. Here are some of my priorities:
- State funding assistance for public pre-kindergarten program in all Maine school districts.
- Full funding of the initiated law requiring 55% state funding of primary and secondary school budgets.
- Review of standardized testing and accountability requirements and elimination of those not producing educational benefits for students.
- Free tuition throughout the Maine Community College system, and expanded apprentice programs in construction trades and other skilled professions.
- Greater support for the research mission of the University of Maine System, including forest products and agriculture. Restoration of the state higher education appropriation, which fell $58 million behind inflation over the past decade.
- Elect Maine’s Attorney General by popular vote, replacing selection by the Legislature.
- Same-day party registration for the June primary elections, allowing all voters to participate.
- Join the National Popular Vote Compact, which, with the addition of states representing an additional 105 electoral votes, will ensure that the President of the United States is chosen democratically, using the one-person, one-vote principle.
Environment and Conservation
- Protect Maine’s groundwater resources through legislation placing appropriate limits on extraction and exports. If communities do chose to allow commercial extraction, there must be compensation paid both to the state and local governments.
- Create a statewide land use plan to prepare for the impacts of global warming, especially in coastal communities.
- Support the Land for Maine’s Future program with new bond funding, and a regular appropriation to ensure continuity and expertise. Coordinate with local land trusts to target new acquisitions, rather than wait for proposals.
- Improve water quality in Maine rivers through state and local investment in improved sewage treatment and eliminating storm water overflows.
- A Cabinet-level energy office to guide state priorities and spending.
- Create new incentives and support small businesses through subsidized loan programs to insulate Maine’s aging houses and apartment buildings, reducing fuel oil use and saving thousands of dollars annually, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions faster than all other available options.
- Emphasize distributed generation through small-scale wind and solar projects, reducing the need for large new transmission lines and power sources.
- Build a “Maine Charging Trail” to enable all-electric car owners to visit Maine and encourage in-state purchases of zero-emission vehicles.
Families and Children
- The existing Department of Health in Human Services is too large and bureaucratic. It should be divided into three parts, with commissioners for public health, human services, children and families.
- Affordable child care for all families, including single parents, is a top priority both for child welfare and the Maine economy, to allow full workforce participation.
- No child should be vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Coordination of caseworkers, schools and law enforcement can be improved through integration of technology at the state level.
I am the only candidate who has proposed — and successfully guided through the Legislature — substantive firearms legislation to improve public safety. Though it was vetoed by the governor, my 2013 bill to expand background checks was approved by the House and Senate, with support from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. It exempted transfers among family members, unlike the referendum question that was defeated in 2016.
In the current session, LD 1884, my “red flag” bill, would allow families and law enforcement officers to ask a court to temporarily remove firearms from those who represent a clear danger to themselves or others. It was the only gun safety bill to be introduced this year, has substantial bipartisan support, and may still be considered in special session.
There is less legislative consensus about limitations on firearms themselves. We must first seek agreement where it’s possible, to reduce the dreadful toll, not only through criminal acts, but self-inflicted deaths.
- Full implementation of the MaineCare expansion approved by the voters, with a buy-in option for all those now purchasing private insurance.
- A sustained, comprehensive response to the opioid crisis, beginning with a Cabinet-level task force to bring all the resources of state government to bear on the problem.
- Community-based health care, with most services – including prevention, nutrition and pre-natal care – offered in a non-hospital setting, reversing the trend toward concentration in a few large institutions.
- State regulation to contain costs. Move to a “single-price” market under a Maine Health Commission, modeled on the Maine PUC, that would review hospital and medical services spending and fee structures.
- Guaranteed access to all forms of reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion services.
Like all Democratic candidates, I oppose so-called “right to work” laws. Labor unions must be able to organize freely, and to represent all those included under negotiated contracts. We must do more. I support:
- Binding arbitration for public employee contracts, where unions are forbidden by law from conducting strikes.
- Project Labor Agreements for major private construction projects receiving public support through TIFs, Pine Tree zones, and other tax concessions.
- The greater Portland area is prospering, but the rest of Maine is not. Traditional industries in rural Maine need to be revived, and new ones created, for the state as a whole to reap the benefits of living in this special place.
Young farmers are coming to Maine, and new generations of Maine’s farm families are launching new ventures, ranging from ethnic produce and organic beef to hops for craft brewing and heirloom potato varieties. Their efforts need support from the form of:
- A Department of Agriculture attuned to the opportunities of an enhanced “farm to table” market and the emerging benefits of food sovereignty
- A substantial bond issue to foster “food hubs” that can create economies of scale in reaching markets in New England and beyond as Maine again become the “food basket” of the Northeast.
Over the past generation, Maine’s offshore fisheries that once flourished with ground fish, shrimp and clams, have been reduced to just one major “cash crop”: lobster. That resource, too, may be threatened by warming oceans. The future of working waterfronts will likely depend on investments in developing aquaculture business models. Maine has had substantial success with oysters, and new “farms” producing salmon and other fish in demand worldwide, and will require reorientation of the state’s traditional support through the Department of Marine Resources.
The papermaking industry has been shrinking over the past two decades, just as shoes, textiles and poultry did a generation earlier, costing thousands of jobs and creating stark economic dilemmas across a once-prosperous region. Maine’s forests, however, are as productive as ever, and the federal government is assisting the state in reviving this vital industry sector. Research at the University of Maine has produced promising developments in biofuels, laminated timber and composite materials. Creating an integrated system for using biomass, pulp and timber to produce new products and generate electricity needs leadership from the Maine Forest Service and the University to maximize jobs and economic output.
- Improvements in Maine’s highways and bridges stalled at the end of the 1980s, and road conditions are poor and declining. A new program of construction and maintenance, bringing all major state roads up to contemporary standards, will require substantial new investments, but is necessary if the economy is to thrive and all regions in the state are to benefit.
- Passenger rail travel returned to Maine in 2001, and is now poised for expansion. The immediate goals will be seasonal service from Brunswick to Rockland, and year-round service to Lewiston-Auburn. Long-term planning to connect New England with the Canadian Maritimes, with stops in Waterville, Bangor and points Downeast, should begin. Building freight service at the same time will increase Maine’s competitive advantage by connecting ports at Eastport, Searsport and Portland into an integrated network.
- Funding for the Highway Fund has fallen precipitously. Fuel taxes should be increased, then indexed, to provide an adequate investment base, with bond issues used only for long-term capital needs. Fees for electric vehicles should be charged in proportion to their use of public highways.
Other candidates express sympathy for the Wabanaki people – the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes – and say they support their sovereignty. This accomplishes nothing, however, to improve relations between state government and native people. The Wabanaki were subject to an agreement grounded in racism.
We must renegotiate the Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980, which disadvantaged the tribes and treats them merely as municipalities – a far cry from the equal treatment they were promised. Only good-faith negotiating by the state can restore a balance to such vital issues as water quality, indigenous fishing rights, and legalized gaming. I make that commitment now.
I have taken public positions on all the referendum proposals from 2016 through 2018.
Marijuana Legalization: I have supported legal marijuana for adults since I became Cumberland County Sheriff in 1999, long before it became fashionable. I worked for nearly two years as the lead Democratic senator on the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization, which crafted a bill, LD 1719, which will implement the law enacted by the voters, after the Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto.
Funding for Public Education: I supported Question 2, and the full funding of the state’s 55% share of school costs through a 3% income tax surcharge. I later voted for a biennial budget eliminating the surcharge because the alternative was a shutdown that would have put 13,000 state employees out of work.
Ranked Choice Voting: I supported the referendum, and was a plaintiff twice in court cases filed to uphold the new law.
Minimum Wage Increases: I supported this referendum, and will oppose any effort to delay or roll back its annual increases and indexing provision. I voted to restore the “tipped wage” credit after restaurant owners and employees convinced me these provisions in the law were unworkable.
MaineCare Expansion: I have repeatedly voted since 2013 for bills that would have authorized the federally funded expansion. I also supported the 2017 referendum, and would, as governor, ensure that all its provisions are swiftly implemented.
Home Health Services for Elderly and Disabled: I support the proposal. Our elderly and disabled are suffering from isolation and the lack of reliable services. The state does need to raise more revenue, not only to help the elderly and disabled, but to fund basic programs like property tax relief through revenue sharing and school funding. I will consider all existing taxes, including sales, income and business taxes, in funding the services Mainers believe are essential.