District 42 Rep. Joe Brooks of Winterport, an Independent, is running for a fifth term in the Maine House against District 41 Republican Rep. James Gillway of Searsport in a race to represent the new District 98 in the Maine House of Representatives. Winterport, Frankfort, Swanville and Searsport constitute the new district.

Before he retired, Brooks served as state house bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News, where he worked for nearly 40 years.

Why are you running for office? During the last session, I was on the Taxation Committee. One of many reasons I want to return for a fifth term is to continue work on the major tax reforms we initiated last year.

What is the greatest challenge facing the state of Maine? An improved and equitable tax system that does not increases taxes on the individual, yet appropriately funds needed services.

In an online poll, our readers repeatedly raised concerns that lawmakers spend too much time fighting along political party lines and cannot seem to cooperate across party lines to get the business of the state done. Can you describe an issue in which you disagree with your political party? Can you describe a situation or an issue in which you would be willing to compromise or work with members of the other party? As an Unenrolled (Independent) member of the House, I believe it is my mission to work with all three organized parties – Republicans, Democrats and Green Independents. The current administration makes it very difficult to reach across the aisle and create an atmosphere of cooperation and compromise. This must change!

Many argue that cuts in state aid to education, roads, revenue sharing for towns and other areas have shifted more tax burden onto local property tax payers. What do you see as the reason for increases in local property taxes? What would you do as a candidate to address the property tax burden? The recent increases in property taxes are a direct result of the governor insisting that revenue sharing is “municipal welfare.” Cuts in revenue sharing are the biggest headache towns and cites in Maine are struggling with. Many towns are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their annual municipal budgets without local tax increases due to the loss of revenue sharing, cuts in road funding and a decrease in the state's share in the cost of education.

How can we afford quality education for Maine's children and balance that need with the burden faced by taxpayers? Return to the level of revenue sharing prior to the current administration and reinforce the goal of the state funding 55 percent of education costs, thus reducing the impact on municipalities.

What is your position on expanding health care for the uninsured? How should that be addressed? I believe accepting the federal government package of funding expanded Medicare funding is the right way to go. It would fund an additional 70,000 low income residents of our state and lead to significant savings over the next two decades.

What, if anything, would you change about welfare programs in the state of Maine? First off, I would attempt to restore some of the cuts that impact mental health patients, elderly and children. I do not disagree that there still exists an element of fraud within the system. But, I believe we can work on these programs without sacrificing those programs that support good Maine people with real issues. I also would advocate an improvement in a community-based system that returns those with mental illness to those services and never puts these patients in a state prison system!

Would you favor raising the minimum wage? To what level? Yes, but not an immediate increase to $10.20 per hour. A gradual increase would lower the impact on Maine's small businesses and would not cause the number of layoffs that a larger increase would.

What policies would you favor to encourage business and job growth? How do we balance the needs of the business community with the need for labor and environmental protections and taxes to fund public services? Reduce restrictions on development of small businesses; develop a greater availability of natural gas; increase funding in education that promises an improvement in the state's job field; encourage improvement in the state's telecommunications; and reduce the state's dependence on oil.