Brian Jones (D-Freedom)
Waldo County — I’ve lived in Freedom for almost 30 years, and during that time I’ve served our community as a member of the Planning Board, the representative to the School Committee, a member of the Budget Committee, a volunteer firefighter and currently as Selectman. I taught at Mount View High School for 17 years, Lewiston High School for five years and I served as principal of Stearns High School.
I graduated from the University of Southern Maine and have a Masters degree from the University of Maine, and I’m currently teaching mathematics and statistics at Unity College and serving as Selectman in Freedom. Anni, my wife of 33 years, and I have three grown children
Why are you running?
I’m running because I don’t think the voters of District 45 and the State are currently being well served. In the last two years, we haven’t created a net job in Maine, unemployment is rising and incomes are falling. Our State government has cut taxes for the wealthiest among us and has transferred many of the costs, such as schools and roads, to our towns. These cuts mean towns have to raise property taxes, affecting our most vulnerable on fixed incomes. And all of this while reducing the funds available for Circuit Breaker tax relief for those struggling to pay their property taxes.
What government services, if any, do you feel should be privatized?
We should let government do what government can do best, and we should let the private sector do what it does best. The private sector won’t provide a free, quality education for all of our children nor will it build roads to serve our rural residents, for example. The private sector, on the other hand, can provide many goods and services more efficiently through a competitive market.
What services do you feel need to be protected from budget cuts?
The education of our children, the maintenance of our public infrastructure, and access to medical care for those who can afford it least should be protected. A safety net for those who don’t have meaningful access to economic opportunities must be protected. Our seniors should not have to choose between food and medicine. We must not lose sight of the fact that failing to attend to our citizens’ needs now only forces those costs to be paid down the road. For example, failing to adequately fund Head Start costs us later through higher grade retention in school, higher drug use rates, a higher likelihood of incarceration, and lower employment rates later in life. Similarly, failure to provide preventive health care only overburdens our emergency rooms which pass those costs along. We have a responsibility to honor our contracts to current and retired public servants.
What services that are private now should be taken on by the government?
As I mentioned, the government should only do what the government can do better than the private sector.
Mitt Romney has proposed kicking Medicaid costs back to the states to administer and cutting federal funds for them. Would you support this plan, and how do you think it would impact state government and taxes?
I would not support such a plan. I stand firmly with the doctors of the Maine Medical Association in its opposition to MaineCare eligibility cuts enacted in the Legislature's most recent session, and its support for expanding MaineCare to all individuals up to 133% of the federal poverty level in 2014, an option available to Maine through the Affordable Care Act.
The unlikely repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Mr. Romney’s plan would move access to health care backward in Maine.
What is your position on women's health issues including insurance coverage for contraceptives and the option of having abortions to terminate unwanted pregnancies?
The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman’s decision to have an abortion is protected by a right to privacy. It’s established law. Given the legal foundation of privacy, I reject any effort of the state to interject itself into the private discussions between a woman and her doctor.
In the same vein, I don’t believe the state has an interest in restricting the availability of contraceptives. I support the provisions under the Affordable Care Act that provide preventive healthcare and screening, including insurance coverage for contraceptives.
We have seen a push, particularly from Republicans, for more identification at the polls. What are your thoughts on balancing the need for preventing voter fraud with the need to provide access to citizens wishing to vote?
The issue of voter fraud is a red herring in Maine, and efforts to restrict access to the polls are a political ploy to disenfranchise certain Maine voters. The citizens of Maine spoke clearly and loudly on the issue of same day voter registration, and I believe they will, if needed, speak again about more stringent requirements for voter identification.
Why aren't there more jobs?
I reject the notion that giving “job creators” tax breaks will create more jobs. This has merely translated to the wealthiest among us having more money. Small businesses are our job creators in Waldo County and they need customers that have money. We need to focus on increasing the wages of working Mainer and strengthening our small business sector.
That said, the lack of jobs is only a symptom of the deeper problems of Maine’s poor economy. We need to find creative ways to allow meaningful participation for all Mainers in a robust, sustainable, and resilient Maine driven economy. Building such an economy requires investment in infrastructure and human resources, and access to capital.
What would you do for those seeking to start businesses and create jobs?
As I mentioned, access to capital, not merely money, but trained human capital, is critical. Access to markets is also important. Maine has an abundance of renewable natural resources that can be exploited without long-term negative effects on our environment and goals of sustainable economic development. The health of our family farms is one of the platforms upon which we need to build, and without proper support, these will go the way of the poultry industry in Waldo County.
How would you address the challenge of providing higher education for low and middle-income young people who cannot afford college without massive loans?
Given the public good of a well-educated citizenry, I believe the State has an interest in supporting public higher education, such that all of our citizens have access to top quality higher education without having to live a life of indebtedness. Reducing tuition costs at our public colleges and universities, access to guaranteed low interest loans, and loan forgiveness for those who serve the public interests of Maine, are ways we can reduce this financial burden on those who follow us.
How can we help Maine people transition from traditional energy sources, particularly for heat, to renewable sources?
The least expensive unit of energy is the one not consumed. Efficiency provides immediate savings. Wood, wood waste and hydroelectric, account for almost half of our net electricity generation, and our reliance on these renewable sources should be expanded. But there’s something fundamentally wrong with our policies, given that Maine produces more electricity than it consumes and our rates are among the highest in the nation.
Our reliance on heating oil rather than sustainable local alternatives is becoming economically untenable, and we should support those alternatives.
What should be done to protect Maine's environment and resources? Is this issue a priority for you as a candidate?
I believe that we can live prosperous lives without environmental degradation. Irreparable environmental destruction robs our grandchildren and their grandchildren of their birthright, a healthy place to live and the unique recreational opportunities Maine offers. Hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking, for example, depend on a healthy environment. Ask any trout fisherman about the devastating effects of acid rain on many of our once pristine ponds and lakes. No economy can be truly sustainable if it is built on over exploiting our nonrenewable resources indefinitely. By doing so, we’re merely passing the true costs of economic growth to future generations.
Do you support state government buying more land to preserve it as state parks or local farmlands?
Yes, however each parcel of land preserved must be considered individually with special attention given to the impact of the purchase on the local community.
Maine has the lowest percentage of publicly owned lands of any New England state at a little over 5%. Given the importance of our tourism industry and our tradition of enjoyment of our natural environment, it seems logical to seek to protect our most important scenic, recreational, and natural assets for future generations from inappropriate development and environmental degradation.
Where do you stand on campaign financing?
I’m running as a clean elections candidate, and my campaign finances are completely transparent. That said, I’m concerned by the influence of large political action committees funded by anonymous donors. Our civic discussion has been distorted and our legislative processes twisted. I support the move to amend the Constitution to reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
What should be done about the state's welfare programs including disability benefits, MaineCare, and substance abuse treatment subsidies?
Assistance to our fellow citizens who honestly cannot participate meaningfully in our economy should be protected. Assistance should be delivered efficiently, fairly, and effectively. Waste, fraud, and abuse, by providers and recipients, should be dealt with. Specifically, we must upgrade our computer systems in DHHS to prevent the overpayment of benefits and other administrative errors and inefficiencies.
Failure to properly treat those who abuse substances merely kicks the problem down the road; relapse costs more than the initial investment in effective treatment.
Do you support allowing gay marriage in Maine?
The citizens of Maine have taken legislation concerning civil marriage out of the hands of the legislature and into their own, and I’ll be making my opinion known in the ballot box as a citizen.
How do you feel the Tea Party movement has affected local, state and federal politics and policy decisions?
As a patriot, I understand my civic duty to pay taxes to promote the general welfare, as do most of us. I think, however, that much of the frustration expressed by the Tea Party is due to the perception that we’re not being taxed fairly or that our contribution to our government isn’t being spent wisely. Unfortunately, many legislators have become adherents to an inflexible ideology that hampers their ability to come to the compromises required to govern.