Race for Governor

Mills offers plans to fight the drug problem, worker shortage, property tax woes

By Daniel Dunkle | Oct 11, 2018

Rockland — Democrat Janet Mills said she has taken action to help those with addiction, to provide opportunities for young people and to work across the aisle with both parties.

"I feel like I have done as much as I can as attorney general to make the people of Maine healthy and safe, to protect the environment, to keep a low crime rate and to try to do something about the opiate epidemic," she said. "There's only so much that I can do as attorney general. I know there is a lot more I can do as governor."

Mills, 70, of Farmington, is in a four-way race for the Blaine House, running against Republican Shawn Moody and Independents Alan Caron and Terry Hayes.

Mills is the state's attorney general and has served in the Maine House. She has also worked as a district attorney.

On the issue of guns and school safety, she said she worked hard last April on a bill by Mark Dion, D-Portland, known as the "red flag" bill that would allow judges to take away the right to own firearms from individuals who are determined to be dangerous because they have made threats. These individuals would be given due process, hearings and an opportunity to restore their Second Amendment rights if they could show they were no longer dangerous. The bill received bipartisan support in the Legislature and support from the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, but was vetoed by the governor, and House Republicans failed to override the veto.

Mills said she would like to put that bill back in.

She does not support arming teachers or school staff and argued that school resource officers should be "Officer Friendly," and giving them guns gives them a different aura.

On the issue of health care, she supports the Medicaid expansion that almost 70 percent of Maine voters supported through the referendum process.

She argued it is not just about people without health insurance, but also the many individuals and small businesses that aren't eligible for ACA coverage and wouldn't be eligible for Medicaid coverage, but are paying extraordinarily high premiums every month because of the cost shift that results from the $570 million in uncompensated care that Maine hospitals have had to take on. Businesses here can't compete with other states where Medicaid has been expanded, she said.

Mills added that she had personal experience with this in the last year of her husband's life, when she had to advocate for him and deal with high prices for medications and high deductibles.

On taxes, she said she hears more complaints about property taxes and the cost shift caused by reducing income taxes on high earners onto property taxpayers and municipal spending. She also noted the problem of the state government's cuts to revenue-sharing, which was a portion of the sales tax that went to service centers like Rockland to offset the cost of having a high number of tax-exempt properties that provide government services.

She proposes relief for property taxpayers through the "circuit breaker" program, which helps those whose with lower or fixed incomes as they face rising property taxes.

She also intends to roll out an economic development plan that will include rural programs to renovate public buildings for community events and establish regional hubs with broadband as coworking spaces for those who want to work remotely. This will help rebuild the economic base for those in rural parts of Maine, she said.

She also advocated increased availability of broadband in general.

Mills said she is very concerned about the opioid epidemic, noting that 418 people died from overdoses in 2017 in Maine and 952 infants were affected by drugs.

She has a 10-point plan to deal with the drug crisis, which includes making Narcan, which can save the lives of people who are overdosing, more widely available, bringing in recovery coaches and doctors to prescribe medication-based treatments to those suffering from addiction and lifting the two-year cap under Medicaid on methadone and Suboxone treatments. She noted that the caps are not based on research or science. In addition, she called for increased work in schools to teach kids decision-making and life skills. She also talked about working with peer groups and outpatient treatment, which she said are working in Vermont.

Mills is not waiting to be elected to take on this problem. She said that when the governor vetoed bills to allow Narcan to be dispensed over the counter, she took it upon herself as the state's chief law enforcement officer to draw down settlement funds from pharmaceutical companies and used that money to buy a roomful of Narcan. Mills gave the medication out to 85 police departments, which resulted in 524 saved lives.

"It's about getting something done whatever way you can do it."

On the issue of civility in politics, she said: "I like to think if I am privileged to be the next governor of Maine, that people will find in my office an open door, an open mind and an open heart."

Mills called for marrying training in schools to the needs of Maine's businesses as part of the solution to the state's shortage of workers. She is a fan of technical schools and training programs and even started a plumbing program herself at one point, using money from a lawsuit. She sees an opportunity to help young people in Maine through school loan forgiveness programs and tax incentives for students who graduate from Maine schools and work in a needed field.

On the issue of citizen initiatives, she acknowledged there are flaws in the system in terms of the ways the bills behind the ballot questions are written. She sees the wide use of initiatives as the result of political gridlock in Augusta, causing frustration for those who want to get public policy done.

"I'm hoping to avoid that by getting things done in the first place," she said.

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Dan Dunkle
Editor
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Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and The Camden Herald.

 

He is author of the historical science fiction novel, "The Scrimshaw Worm," available through Amazon.

 

He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.

 

Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast since 1998.

 

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