Incumbent legislator Veronica Magnan, D-Stockton Springs, said she wants to keep up the work she began in her first term as House District 41 representative, which includes taking a cautious approach to closing the state’s budget gap.

Veronica Magnan

• Town of residence: Stockton Springs

• Party affiliation: Democrat

• Occupation: Retired educator

• Previous elective or appointive office: SAD 56 Board of Directors, Stockton Springs Budget Committee, Waldo County Democratic Committee Chair

• Clean elections candidate: Yes

House district 41 bridges Waldo and Hancock counties, and includes the towns of Frankfort, Prospect, Orland, Searsport, Stockton Springs and Verona Island.

As the incumbent legislator, Magnan hopes to continue following the example of public service that her own family set for her as she was growing up, she said. To that end, Magnan entered the education field, and worked as a teacher, principal and superintendent prior to moving to the Stockton Springs community of Sandy Point.

“Those jobs gave me the public relations skills I need, and gave me the ability to speak with lots of different kinds of people,” she said.

Having knocked on 1,700 doors in her district to date, Magnan feels connected with the people who reside in the six-town area.

“When I’m going door-to-door, it’s not just, ‘Hi, elect me,’ it’s asking people how they’re doing,” she said. She offers people lists of contact numbers for various social services, which are specific to each town, in an effort to lend a hand when it is needed.

Magnan said she is running again because she wants to continue working towards making state programs and services work for people.

Among the most important issues that Magnan sees facing the next session of the Legislature is making tough decisions about the largest areas in the state budget, which fund education and the state department of health and human services.

Funding education has been a challenge in the last two years, said Magnan, and it’s only going to get more difficult.

“In this economy, funding education at 55 percent is now impossible,” she said, referring to the 2004 referendum vote that called for the state to pay 55 percent of the cost of schools’ essential programs and services. “We must balance the budget; we can’t run a deficit,” said Magnan. “As tough as it’s been in education up to this point, I think it’s been fair. It has not been easy, but it’s been fair. Will there be more cuts? Maybe.”

With local property taxes rising in response to the decreasing state funding, Magnan said school districts would need to make decisions regarding the future of small community schools in order to keep property taxes manageable for residents.

Magnan said that despite the money crunch, there would be some money available for education, and that “it will be given out as equitably as possible.”

For DHHS, cuts are also likely, but Magnan said that anything cut from that budget is going to have harsh consequences.

“It’s becoming painful to hear about the cuts being proposed,” she said.

Magnan recalled a hearing last spring regarding a proposal to cut home health care for the disabled, and the droves of people who arrived at the capital to speak against it. She described the experience of hearing the stories of people whose lives would be adversely affected by those cuts as “heart-breaking.”

“Those kinds of decisions are only going to get more and more difficult, and I don’t want to lose track of people who are in dire straits,” she said.

On the matter of how the state should ensure that pension obligations would be met for retired state employees, Magnan said the state must find a way to fully fund state pensions.

Magnan said that while a private business that is in crisis mode can scramble to either buy retirees out or simply end the pensions it currently offers, the state cannot handle its pension problem the same way.

“Unless something really awful happens, the state will continue to go on,” she said.

Magnan doesn’t classify the issue as a crisis right now, but more as a “looming problem.” Either way, she said, the state must find a way to pay back the fund and examine needs that will arise in the future.

“We have pensioners right now, and we can’t let those people down, but we have to be willing to know and understand the limits to what we can do,” she said, adding that people may not be willing to enter public service jobs without the incentive of a pension to make up for relatively low wages. Adding to the problem, she said, is the fact that those who are eligible for a state pension cannot collect Social Security benefits.

“We have to be very, very careful with how we go about doing whatever it is that needs to be done,” she said.

In terms of how the state can attract or encourage new and well-paid jobs, Magnan said the state must work to reduce energy costs. She said Canada’s energy costs are lower than ours, and Maine should be looking to its neighbors to the north to get the best possible rates.

Attracting large employers like athenahealth or Bank of America is great, she said, but there is still a need for manufacturing jobs and costs need to come down in order to increase Maine’s odds of attracting those kinds of firms.

Magnan said looking for ways to produce our own energy here, such as through tidal or wind developments, may also help decrease the burden for potential businesses. It may also be a way to create manufacturing jobs, as Magnan said Mainers could be the ones building the turbines for such energy operations.

“We should be producing solar panels here, not in China,” she said.

The state should also find ways to encourage small business development, said Magnan, as District 41 has predominantly small businesses keeping people working.

“We need to look at what we can do to make life bearable, and to make business doable for these kinds of people, all over Maine,” she said. “We’re nickeling and diming people to death with fees.”

Maine guides, for example, pay a wide range of fees for various licensing requirements, all of which take a bite out of their income. Last year, she said, the Legislature considered a bill that would have imposed another certification fee on in-state contractors. Instead, Magnan said, the state should be charging out-of-state contractors a surcharge for working in Maine.

Putting a stop to charges such as these, said Magnan, would jump-start the local economy.

Temporary tax incentives for larger businesses, she said, are not always the answer, because too often, those companies leave town once they are obligated to pay 100 percent of their property taxes.

“They can just go away and move to the next place,” she said.

Magnan said closing the multimillion-dollar state budget shortfall must be done carefully.

Looking at the long term, Magnan said throwing state money at businesses like struggling paper mills to save 100 jobs is not working for Maine now, nor will it in the future. Instead, Magnan said, easing the fees and taxes imposed on small businesses would increase the number of employers in the state, and in turn, revenues would eventually increase, because more people would be back to work and paying taxes.

The state saw 1,000 jobs cut from its payroll last year, but additional cuts in the state budget will also need to be made, said Magnan. She added, though, that it should be done with a scalpel, rather than an ax.

“We can’t do axes, any opportunity to do that has long passed,” she said. “It needs to be carefully done, so that people and businesses do not suffer.”

Magnan added, however, that “everything is on the table” when it comes time to consider cost reductions.

With regard to industrial wind projects and other forms of alternative energy, Magnan said Maine had a reliable wind source, and noted that a program at the University of Maine at Orono had lead the way in researching how Maine could harness the wind to produce clean energy.

“The question is, who are we producing it for? It should be for Mainers first,” she said.

Magnan also acknowledged that some Waldo County towns had approved ordinances restricting the development of wind projects, and stated that each project should be examined carefully to make sure the proposed size and location were not detrimental to communities.

In addition, Magnan said the state could benefit from encouraging offshore wind projects, such as what is being developed off the coast of Massachusetts, as well as other types of alternative energy.

She said all alternative energy projects have significant start-up and development costs, and “that is where the federal government must be most helpful.”

On how to address education funding in the coming years, Magnan acknowledged that the voters have sent a firm message to the state that it must fund education at 55 percent, but said that is not likely to happen in the near future.

Magnan said the complex funding formula used to determine how much each school district will receive in state funding is “probably the best way to guarantee fairness across the board.” She added that the federal funding formula pits the poorest districts against one another in a fight for funding, and that should change.

Affordable medical care has also been a hot topic here, as it has across the country. Magnan said the state had been a leader in the nation with regard to what has been done to make health insurance accessible to most Mainers.

On Dirigo Health, Magnan said that the program is paid for by the people who use it. MaineCare benefits are based on the applicant’s ability to pay, as is the program for children known as CubCare.

The federal program that is being put into place, Magnan said. “looks a lot like the programs that have been put in place in Maine.” The issue with Dirigo and MaineCare is that not enough people in those pools pay premiums, she said, and that would not be the case if more eligible people took advantage of those programs.

“If the pool were that big, it would also be that deep,” she said.

But for now, small-business people like hairdressers and carpenters depend on those programs for health coverage.

“I think we’ve done the best we can,” she said. “…When people have good medical care, they are less likely to show up at emergency rooms and spend a fortune.”

The area that Magnan said Maine could do better in is giving Mainers better access to affordable dental care, as many people head to the emergency room with ailments like impacted or infected teeth.

Social services and the costs of providing them have also been popular topics on the campaign trail, and Magnan weighed in on what she feels the future should hold for those programs.

Magnan said she disagreed with the idea that many people took advantage of the system, noting that the most requested programs are ones offering utility assistance, mental health services and food and housing. Through her campaigning, Magnan said she had found that many of those benefiting from social services were underemployed and needed a hand to make ends meet. The large numbers of unemployed are another sign of the poor economic times, she said.

“To what extent are we willing to give people a helping hand without calling it a major problem?” she said.

With mortgage foreclosures continuing to plague residents, the needs of Mainers will only continue to mount. Magnan added that despite the claims made by public policy organizations and some politicians, she is not seeing an influx of people moving to Maine solely for the purpose of obtaining welfare benefits.

“People are more focused on the really, really basic stuff, and they’re asking for things that used to be doable that are now hard for them,” she said.