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Sherman Hutchins: Maine must continue to expand its workforce

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 25, 2020
Photo by: Carolyn Zachary Incumbent Republican Sherm Hutchins is running for reelection in House District 131 against Democrat Veronica Magnan, who served in the 124th Legislature.

Waldo County — House District 131 incumbent Sherman Hutchins, R-Penobscot, is seeking reelection because he wants to continue to expand Maine’s economy so young people have more opportunities to work in the state, he said.

Representing Stockton Springs, Prospect, Verona Island, Orland, Penobscot, Dedham and Otis, he is running against Democratic challenger Veronica Magnan. A former Penobscot selectman and longtime town meeting moderator for several Hancock County towns, Hutchins owned and operated a construction business for many years. In his semi-retirement, he served as buildings and grounds manager for the Wilson Museum in Castine.

Hutchins also served a term in the 114th Legislature. When Republican Rep. Karl Ward decided not to seek a second term in 2018, he hand-picked Hutchins to run in his place.

This summer, Hutchins was among Republicans who called for the state Legislature to be reconvened to address COVID-19. He has grievances about how the state has handled coronavirus shutdowns and feels the shutdown has violated some rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. He argued that the Legislature should have had a larger role in crafting virus mandates.

Pandemic

Hutchins said he thinks Gov. Mills’ mandates to curb the coronavirus early on were good at slowing the virus and he is glad she has not used the full $9 million tax budget approved for this fiscal year.

But he said declaring emergency executive power month after month mimics a dictatorship too much. He thinks the Legislature should have had more influence on virus decisions, though he said the result probably would not have been too different from what the governor mandated.

Preventing churches from meeting was a violation of the First Amendment, he said. He would have preferred that Mills release guidelines for safe church gatherings instead of closing in-person worship altogether.

“We need to find a better way for the people, instead of pushing them around,” he said. “That just doesn’t work; people don’t like that.”

He supports continuing to reduce state spending and reduce taxes for businesses to help the state’s economy recover from the pandemic, he said. But he wants to see the Legislature more involved with decision-making because it is a diverse body that was elected by a diversity of districts.

Police

He said he does not support defunding the police or shifting funding away from the police because caseworkers hired to handle mental health and substance abuse calls will still need to respond with an officer.

Police officers are in a difficult position, he said, and their few mistakes get blown out of proportion. “Their mistakes are very few,” he said; “it’s just that when they do make them, they’re exaggerated a lot.”

Economy

If Maine can increase its job market to allow more people work opportunities, then the economy will grow, he said. If the state can shift people from welfare into work, then it will be paying out less and gaining tax revenues from more people.

Taxes

A local sales tax would work for some cities in the state, Hutchins said, but he thinks most small towns would reject the option because it places too much tax burden on local businesses. “When you tax something more, you get less out of it,” he said.

Climate change

Maine has some of the strictest environmental standards in the country, he said, and he thinks it does a good job of repairing polluted waterfronts and properties. He thinks people are too impatient and want climate issues addressed now, but it will take more time to consider how to invest in meaningful climate change solutions.

He said a lot of money has been wasted on solutions that are not efficient or practical. He does not think the energy return on wind power is worth the investment, but would be more open to exploring solar power, which he thinks gets a little more energy for money spent.

He said the state should be more mindful of how such projects can push up the cost of energy, even for ratepayers who do not benefit from them.

Abortion

Hutchins said it is unlikely that people will support repealing abortion rights outright, but he thinks he can find support to eliminate late-term abortions.

Guns

Most violent crimes are committed with illegal pistols, he said, so banning assault rifles and accessories will not curb gun violence. He thinks Maine has the lowest violent crime rate in the U.S. because residents can open carry without a permit.

He said people in Maine must be able to defend themselves, if necessary. And he made no apologies for being endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Sportsman's Alliance of Maine.

Education

Hutchins said the state should improve vocational training. He tried to get legislation passed that would fill a teacher gap in vocational schools by allowing professionals trained in their respective vocational fields to be hired as teachers, but the measure failed.

The teachers' union opposed it, he said, so Democrats in the Legislature opposed it. Most vocational teachers in the state are retiring, he noted, and there are few people to fill their positions.

Broadband

Broadband is a necessity, Hutchins said, but it would cost too much for the government to expand it statewide. He wants to see providers be responsible for most of the funding for expansion.

He also wants to see more incentives for providers to expand the service in Maine and have residents commit to the service once it is offered throughout the state.

Election 2020 - Sherman Hutchins - Candidate: Maine House District #131
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