James Gillway said he’s tired of seeing the state pass the buck — or costs, rather — to towns and cities, and he intends to take that message to Augusta should he win the House District 41 seat.

Gillway is challenging incumbent legislator Veronica Magnan, D-Stockton Springs, to serve the six-town district that includes Frankfort, Orland, Prospect, Searsport, Stockton Springs and Verona Island.

James Gillway

• Town of residence: Searsport

• Party affiliation: Republican

• Occupation: Manager, town of Searsport

• Previous elective or appointive office: Legislative Police Committee for Maine Municipal Association

• Clean elections candidate: Yes

Running in this race affords Gillway a chance to fight for municipalities, which he said had seen dramatic financial losses in recent years because of the decisions being made in Augusta.

“The biggest motivator for me has been seeing the shift in taxes, and the shift in responsibility to the towns, especially with revenue-sharing losses,” said Gillway, who has served as Searsport’s town manager for the last five years and had previously been the town’s police chief for more than 20 years.

“If the state is in a crisis situation, which I feel that they are, it’s important for the state to deal with it on their level and not to keep passing it down to the towns.”

In two years, Searsport has lost a total of $175,000 in state revenue-sharing, which Gillway said was enough to fund a full department for a year. And Gillway said the story is the same, on a proportionate scale, for the remaining five towns in District 41.

He noted that a report from The Brookings Institute supported his claim that municipalities are the most frugal when it comes to stretching taxpayer dollars.

“I think listening to people is important, and that has been lost on Augusta for many years,” said Gillway. “They’re out of touch.”

Gillway said closing the sizable state budget shortfall and improving the economy in Maine were the most important issues for legislators in the coming session, because he said those problems must be solved without using towns as a financial lifeline.

As a town manager and general assistance director, Gillway sees daily examples of how the poor economy and rising property taxes are affecting people in every walk of life.

Gillway offered the example of a recent proposal in the Legislature to tax heating oil, which he said was “bad news,” especially with winter approaching. The jobless rate does not show signs of improving, and such a tax would only put people more behind than they already are, he said. Gillway also criticized a recent proposal that would have taxed other services, such as auto repairs and maintenance.

That type of taxation, he said, is especially hurtful now, because more people are driving older cars to avoid taking on the debt associated with buying a new car.

“It just doesn’t sit well with people,” he said.

On how the state should ensure that pension obligations will be met for retired state employees, Gillway said the funds to pay pensions “never should have been touched in the first place.” He said fixing that problem is what he considers one of the essentials.

“It’s an obligation,” he said. “We need to find a way to do that in the budget.”

While Gillway admitted there was no magic wand that could be waved to make the problem disappear, one of the most important things the state can do now is to live up to its promises to its employees, he said.

“These people, in good faith, did their jobs over the years. This was a promise that was made to them at the state level, and we need to make good on it. How can we attract employees in the future if we can’t make good on the promises we made in the past?” he said.

Gillway expects that will be one of many issues that will make him unpopular in Augusta should he get elected, but he said he doesn’t mind.

“I’m not going out there to make friends; there are hard decisions that need to be made, and I’m going to make them based on what the people in my district feel,” he said.

Gillway said the key to attracting and encouraging new, well-paid jobs is to “deregulate and streamline the process of starting a new business” in Maine.

Entering into more public-private partnerships, such as those that helped bring in athenahealth and improve the Sprague Energy pier at Mack Point, could boost the state’s chances of bringing in more large-scale employers, he said. Also, working with area economic development groups such as KWRED or the state Department of Economic Development can assist with forging those partnerships.

“We have the infrastructure to do it, we just need to use it,” he said.

On the topic of deregulating, Gillway said any action in that direction must be done carefully to avoid devaluing the state.

“The north is already at a disadvantage for manufacturing, because we need to heat our buildings in the winter,” said Gillway. “We need to make Maine more attractive for businesses.”

Gillway said programs like tax increment financing had helped Searsport gain PPSA, a clay slurry production plant neighboring Sprague Energy. The company has expanded in the five years since it settled in town, and Gillway said more companies might make Maine their home if more such tax incentives were in place.

Small-business development is perhaps the best way to improve the job market for Mainers, he said.

“It’s the shops down on Main Street that need to be filled, and that’s what will be getting a lot of people back to work. That’s probably one of the most important goals,” he said.

Gillway said closing the multimillion-dollar state budget gap must be done cautiously. He said when making any decisions on cuts, he would consider the importance of the item that’s on the chopping block before eliminating it.

“It’s nice to say we’re just going to cut, but we’ve got to find out what we actually need before we cut. Every cut has consequences, and they don’t all equal savings,” he said.

It’s necessary to look at the whole package, said Gillway, and if a proposal includes some level of taxation, he is generally not in favor of it.

“That’s not where we want to look first,” he said.

Gillway said any decisions that will be made will not be easy, and he said he knows that from experience. Gillway said town employees have foregone pay raises to help rein in the budget in Searsport.

“There are some hard decisions to be made, no doubt about it,” he said. “Searsport has had to make them, and we’ve lived with them.”

With regard to industrial wind projects and other forms of alternative energy, Gillway said while wind power is a clean source of energy, it should not come at the expense of towns that have decided against hosting such developments.

“We need to support those towns who’ve decided it’s not something they want in their communities,” Gillway said.

Gillway added that wind is a great concept, and in some cases the towers themselves become a local attraction, as they have in Mars Hill, but the state should also encourage tidal energy and perhaps resurrect the use of hydropower.

Mainers aren’t currently benefiting from much of the power generated at existing wind farms, Gillway said, and as long as that is the case Maine should consider other ways of producing energy, particularly ones that do not interfere with the scenery.

“Maine has a beautiful landscape, and I’d much rather look at the mountains,” he said.

Any alternative energy projects that do come to Maine, said Gillway, should result in the creation of local manufacturing jobs.

“That would help stop the drain of our young people, who are leaving the state to find good jobs,” Gillway said.

In addition, Gillway said the Legislature should find a way to fund schools’ essential programs and services at 55 percent. Especially, Gillway said, since the voters have called for it, and because years ago, the Legislature itself also agreed to do so.

“It’s just like the retirement issue, we need to find a way to do it,” he said. “It’s a mandate from the people.”

Gillway said the state’s failure to comply with its own mandate was inexcusable, especially since Mainers do not have the option of disregarding the state’s requirements to pay excise and income taxes, for example.

Gillway said that while the state has done well with making medical care accessible to most Mainers, the cost of doing so has been the declining financial health of small hospitals, because many are still waiting for state reimbursements.

“It all comes back to the need to pay our bills,” he said. “Hospitals are being left hanging; they’re closing down or stopping funding for services. I think the state needs to fund those programs, or they need to get out of the business.”

He said small hospitals like Waldo County General are still owed thousands of dollars in reimbursements for services provided to Mainers under these programs, and called the situation “unacceptable.”

Social services, and the growing number of Mainers who use them these days, are also popular topics of discussion during this election season. Gillway said while he understands that the programs are necessary, he also thinks some changes should be put in place.

“We need some reform, but we do not need to abandon it,” he said. “General assistance and other state programs are important to the people of Maine, and it’s more important now that more and more people are having problems due to the economy.”

Gillway said social services should be examined to determine whether or not Maine is doing more than it needs to do as a state. As his town’s general assistance administrator, Gillway knows most of those seeking help are good people in bad situations, but he has also seen people requesting help who aren’t willing to help themselves.

“I hate to say it, but we do need to look at residency requirements,” he said. “We need to be smarter than the people who would try to take advantage of us.”