Donna Hopkins (R-Belmont)
Waldo County — I am a lifelong resident of Midcoast Maine, and a graduate of Belfast Area High School. My professional background has been in sales and customer service with local businesses, including Moss and Penobscot Frozen Foods. My husband of 43 years, Steve, and I live in Belmont; we have one daughter, Andrea, and four grandchildren.
Why are you running?
I want our children and grandchildren, and future generations, to have better economic opportunities right here at home. If we don’t have a strong economy and good jobs in Maine, we lose our most precious resource — our children — to other states.
What government services, if any, do you feel should be privatized?
Before identifying any specific government services that should be privatized, we need to determine what the core functions of the state are, and whether those goods and services can be better produced and delivered by government or by the private sector. As stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, elected officials owe it to the citizens of Maine to provide services in the most cost-efficient way that maintains or improves the quality of those services.
What services do you feel need to be protected from budget cuts?
Our first priority has to be to help the most vulnerable among us. But because economic circumstances, and the needs of each currently funded program, can change, elected officials have a responsibility to look at every line item in each budget cycle, and prioritize how our limited resources will be spent.
What services that are private now should be taken on by the government?
None, at this time. Our state government is already bigger than we can afford.
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?
My understanding of this proposal is that block grants, or fixed allotments of money, would be given to the states to administer, in exchange for fewer rules on how we use the money. I’m sure that Maine can spend those dollars smarter than bureaucrats in Washington. This will allow us to better budget, and make sure that funding goes to those most in need.
What is your position on women's health issues including insurance coverage for contraceptives and the option of having abortions to terminate unwanted pregnancies?
Health insurance companies should be free to provide coverage for these services if they choose, just as individuals should be free to purchase the insurance coverage that best meets their needs. Imposing coverage mandates on insurance companies increases health-care costs for all by forcing consumers to buy insurance coverage for services they don’t want or need.
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?
One man, one vote — our right to vote is one of the most precious rights we have as American citizens. It’s important to make sure that everyone who is legally eligible to vote is able to vote, but also important to protect against any voter fraud. Possibly as important as voter ID is the issue of same-day registration, which I feel can place a burden on town clerks and registrars.
Why aren't there more jobs?
There are too many roadblocks in the way of business owners and entrepreneurs. These are in the form of high taxes, regulations that are costly and complicated to comply with, and high energy costs, to name a few. Small businesses are the very lifeblood of our economy in Maine — we need to encourage, not discourage, job creators.
What would you do for those seeking to start businesses and create jobs?
Work on removing or reducing some of those roadblocks mentioned above. The appointment of Maine’s first-ever Small Business Advocate is a step in the right direction in helping businesses to navigate Maine’s extensive regulatory requirements.
How would you address the challenge of providing higher education for low and middle-income young people who cannot afford college without massive loans?
We need to be more creative in looking at how that college education is attained. A combination of a bridge program or dual enrollment classes that allow college credits to be earned in high school, and the more affordable community colleges, may take the place of the first two years in a traditional university, saving significant tuition costs.
How can we help Maine people transition from traditional energy sources, particularly for heat, to renewable sources?
Our number-one priority today should be to reduce the cost of energy to Maine’s consumers. Our energy policy should include “all of the sensible” sources for affordable energy. Maine already has the highest in the nation portfolio of renewables standard. When there are reliable and affordable renewable energy sources available, that transition will be market-driven.
What should be done to protect Maine's environment and resources? Is this issue a priority for you as a candidate?
Maine people have a long, proud tradition of respecting and protecting our environment and natural resources. We are blessed with a quality of life here that cannot be found in many other states. We need to make it a priority to balance the stewardship of our natural resources with the need for economic growth.
Do you support state government buying more land to preserve it as state parks or local farmlands?
Not now. State government is currently not able to fully fund our obligations to hospitals and public schools; these should be priorities over purchasing more land for preservation. The more land that is taken off local property tax rolls, the greater the burden on remaining property owners to make up the difference in tax revenues required to pay for municipal services.
Where do you stand on campaign financing?
Maine’s Clean Election law does make it easier for a first-time candidate like me to enter a race for public office. I don’t have any problem with the Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating matching funds.
What should be done about the state's welfare programs including disability benefits, MaineCare, and substance abuse treatment subsidies?
We need to have a safety net in place to take care of our most vulnerable citizens, but when that net is stretched too far, some of the truly needy will fall through. We need to evaluate our benefit programs, to make sure they are reasonable and in line with what other states are providing, so that limited resources will go to those most in need. The goal of our welfare programs should be to put people on a path to independence, not to foster dependency on the state.
Do you support allowing gay marriage in Maine?
I am in favor of the traditional definition of marriage as being a relationship between one man and one woman.
How do you feel the Tea Party movement has affected local, state and federal politics and policy decisions?
The rise of the Tea Party has raised awareness of local and national politics, and has brought our Constitution and the proper role of government in our lives front and center in political discussions.