Meredith Ares (D-Searsport)
Waldo County — I live in Searsport with my dad, my son, two rescue dogs and a parrot. I have owned my house here for years and made it my full-time home when I retired three years ago. For the last 10 years of my working life I was assistant to the President of Permacel, a mid-sized manufacturing company. Before that, I spent many years in the insurance industry. I was married for 38 years, but am now a widow. I have energy, common sense and a strong work ethic, and I would like to use them in Augusta in the service of my community.
Why are you running?
Augusta has gotten away from putting people first. People are hurting, small businesses are hurting, but the current Legislature has spent its energies helping big insurance companies increase their profits, enacting tax breaks that primarily benefit the wealthy, raiding public employee retirement programs and defunding education and essential human services. Meanwhile, Maine has been losing jobs and our economy has been shrinking. We must change direction to focus on the things that will improve the life of Mainers: jobs, education, health-care and making sure Maine participates in the economic recovery that is already under way in other parts of the country. I want to be part of a new Legislature that will take Maine in that new direction.
What government services, if any, do you feel should be privatized?
I am opposed to the privatization of government services because profit-motivation is not compatible with the goals of government services. For example a privatized prison has little motivation to rehabilitate its inmates because a large prison population means large profits, while public interest is best served by reducing prison populations. Also, most privatized government services would be monopolies (i.e the post office), thus the motivation of competition for profit would be absent. In addition, cost of service would have to be increased to provide corporate profits.
What services do you feel need to be protected from budget cuts?
Programs on which people rely for essential human services, such as Medicare, should be protected from budget cuts.
What services that are private now should be taken on by the government?
I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
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 am opposed to Romney’s plan because it would burden states, many of which are already unable to meet their obligations. States would have to raise taxes, and the hardships it would cause would fall unevenly on people depending on where they live and the existing tax structures in their particular states.
What is your position on women's health issues including insurance coverage for contraceptives and the option of having abortions to terminate unwanted pregnancies?
I strongly support every woman’s right to make her own health care decisions including decisions on contraception and the safe, legal termination of unwanted pregnancy. Contraception should be covered by health insurance, just like any other preventive care.
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?
Instances of voter fraud are extremely rare. Cases of voter fraud that could be prevented by rigorous ID requirements at the polls are even rarer — so rare that they could not possibly influence the outcome of an election. However the voter suppression laws promoted by Republican governors could have great influence on the outcome of elections. If voter fraud ever becomes a problem, we should seek ways to address it that do not interfere with the right of American citizens to cast their votes.
Why aren't there more jobs?
The outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs to Asia and other parts of the world vastly reduced the number of jobs that support America’s middle class. Complicating this is a tax code that is starving the U.S. economy by allowing our most profitable corporations to take their huge profits out of our economy and invest them overseas to evade U.S. taxes. Starved of tax revenue and investment capital, our economy’s ability to create jobs has been held down. Those who claim tax favoritism of the wealthy and large corporations will create jobs have it exactly backwards.
What would you do for those seeking to start businesses and create jobs?
Government needs to get out of their way. There are burdensome taxes and regulations that make it hard for start-ups and small businesses in Maine. Governor LePage exploited this fact to justify lifting restrictions on predatory business practices and gutting environmental protections, but he has done little or nothing about the red tape and legal inconsistencies that strangle small businesses and stifle initiative. I will use my voice and my vote to enact real reform that will help our businesses create jobs.
How would you address the challenge of providing higher education for low and middle-income young people who cannot afford college without massive loans?
Access to affordable higher education is as essential to our national security as a strong military, as important to our economy as energy independence and as vital to our future as controlling the national debt. Our young people are who our country will be. If we can afford anything, it must be education. Grants to individual students, subsidies to universities and colleges and scholarships for the best and brightest would all be good investments for the State and for the Federal government.
How can we help Maine people transition from traditional energy sources, particularly for heat, to renewable sources?
First there must be programs to increase awareness of the benefits of converting to renewable energy and of the available options. Then programs must be devised to make conversion affordable.
What should be done to protect Maine's environment and resources? Is this issue a priority for you as a candidate?
Those of us who hunt, fish, snowmobile, kayak, hike or ski treasure Maine’s natural environment, resources and beauty. Yes, their protection is a priority to me. As we work to attract business and jobs to Maine we must plan carefully so that we don’t lose what we have in order to get what we need.
Do you support state government buying more land to preserve it as state parks or local farmlands?
Where do you stand on campaign financing?
Our democracy is best served when elections are about issues, choices are clear and dialog is truthful. Great sums of money are not necessary. In fact, when one candidate has significantly more money than the other, it fouls the process. Maine’s Clean Elections practices are a credit to the spirit of representative government. They should be preserved, strengthened and emulated throughout the country.
What should be done about the state's welfare programs including disability benefits, MaineCare, and substance abuse treatment subsidies?
The structure of many programs does not motivate people toward independence and self reliance. For example, a single mother working part time would lose so many benefits if she accepted more hours that she can’t afford to do it. Programs must be restructured to encourage independence.
Do you support allowing gay marriage in Maine?
Yes. Families are good for society and good for the economy. Families are more likely to buy homes, save for the future and volunteer in their communities than single people. Married people tend to be healthier and happier. Maine should encourage families and should accord all families equal respect and recognition.
How do you feel the Tea Party movement has affected local, state and federal politics and policy decisions?
The Tea Party has contributed significantly to the partisanship and divisiveness that has sadly characterized our political discourse in recent years.