Question: “As governor, you’re almost certain to inherit a significant budget gap. What are the top three ways you would tackle the deficit?
Steve Abbott, Republican
We first need to ensure we’re not throwing good money after bad. We do that by auditing all state programs and setting performance benchmarks to find out which ones are working. Those that aren’t should be restructured or eliminated. We also have too many state workers doing jobs that should be done in the private sector. A good rule is, if you can find it in the Yellow Pages, then chances are, the state shouldn’t be doing it. We also need to bring our overly generous welfare system in line with federal benefits.
Bill Beardsley, Republican
A portion of the shortfall can be addressed by across-the-board reductions in DHHS and Education. The greatest savings would come in DHHS expenditures by bringing Maine’s eligibility standards in line with national averages in residency requirements, income thresholds and duration of eligibility. Savings are achievable by bringing our student-teacher ratio more in line with other rural states that have proven results with fewer teachers. This can be achieved through attrition. State planning, economic development, education, the executive branch, health, energy and other departments can be reduced with the essential services
- Prioritize all programs, tax breaks ($3.4 billion dwarfs operating budget), government agencies. Eliminate those we don’t need or don’t work (e.g., motor vehicle inspections).
- Reduce scope of Medicaid services.
- Consider a small gasoline tax increase for Highway Fund to fix roads and bridges.
- Get pupil-teacher ratio up to average of rural states that outperform Maine (saves $400 million).
- Long term: Increase economic activity and revenues by lowering costs of electricity, health care and government services.
- Smaller Legislature — annual sessions, annual budget, capital budget.
- Streamline DHHS services — 7,000 contractors is too many.
Matt Jacobson, Republican
Lower personal and corporate income tax rates and eliminate the death tax on Maine residents. This will attract and jobs and people to Maine; more people living and working here will result in greater prosperity and smaller government shortfalls. End Dirigo Health and simultaneously reduce the costly mandates that make Maine’s health insurance so expensive. Doing so will quickly drop premiums, and thousands will be able to leave Medicaid and enroll in private insurance that employers and employees can finally afford. Combine the resources of the Maine Turnpike Authority, MDOT, and county and town road departments to achieve greater efficiency.
Paul LePage, Republican
My initial action would be to find the most qualified commissioners for Education and DHHS. Then we would go about establishing cost effective methods of delivering these services throughout Maine. We need to reform our delivery systems while improving the quality of education and welfare. These two departments account for approximately 80 percent of the state budget. Further, Dirigo is a failed program and needs to be made cost effective or eliminated.
Patrick McGowan, Democrat
None of my proposals will increase taxes on the people of Maine. I’ll look at $2.5 billion worth of exemptions. I’ll propose and support economic development that will help increase new forms of energy. When we look at revenue, Maine must start saying “yes” to new growth to allow for increased revenue without raising taxes. And I will continue to find ways for state government to operate more efficiently. I know the budget and how to grow our economy from my small-business experience. I also know the tax burden from owning small businesses and working for Maine people.
Peter Mills, Republican
Lock the best minds in the state into one room and not let them out until they emerge with a plan to grow the Maine economy out of this recession. Better jobs for more people is the way to raise the revenue Maine needs to balance its next budget. Consolidate health benefits for teachers, state workers, public retirees and municipal and university employees into one plan. A single plan can demand lower costs and better care for public workers and their dependents. Bring accountability to social and educational services by measuring outcomes — results and achievement rather than process.
Elizabeth Mitchell, Democrat
As Senate President, I’ve made the tough choices and brought members of both parties together to balance Maine’s budget. First, I am fighting for a jobs bond that will put people back to work now because a stronger economy is the key to solving our budget challenges. Second, we can do more to reform state contracting and reduce waste. Third, we shouldn’t abandon the historic tax reform bill enacted last year that cut the income tax by 20 percent while expanding the tax base. I encourage voters to vote No on Question 1 in June.
Les Otten, Republican
Create jobs and increase receipts by removing barriers that hurt Maine’s ability to compete: High taxes and energy costs; noncompetitive insurance laws; a deteriorating education system; and excessive regulations of a government that get in the way, instead of paving the way, for the success of its citizens. Reduce government spending by using the power of the budget to dictate the size of Maine’s government; privatize as many state functions as possible and following lean government initiatives. Build revenues by recruiting new companies to come to Maine and increasing the tourism marketing budget, driving sales tax receipts.
Bruce Poliquin, Republican
The solution is better management of state resources. First, we need to audit every department, agency and program to eliminate waste and redundancy. Second, reform our most costly and bloated programs to ensure they are only as generous as the national averages. Third, we must begin the difficult process of evaluating what services we should provide and being honest about what we can afford. We need to end the cycle of mismanagement that causes budget deficits year after year. Once we spend only what we take in, then we can reduce taxes in a meaningful way to help our struggling businesses and families.
John Richardson, Democrat
Revolutionize our investment in jobs. We can’t tax our way to success and we can’t keep doing the same old dance of across-the-board cuts to services. We need to make more investments in innovation and in educating our people. This will lead to job growth and a healthier economy. Reduce the cost of government and improve the quality of services by working with state employees to eliminate waste, save time and reduce complexity. Reform our corporate tax structure by reducing existing tax
incentives/credits and the corporate tax rate, making it easier for businesses to create new jobs.
Steven Rowe, Democrat
Maine needs a new direction and strategy for budgeting based on key priorities. We have a habit of looking only two years down the road. We must invest in areas that produce savings both in the short and, importantly, the long term. I will utilize zero-based budgeting — focusing on our greatest needs and opportunities for growth. I will listen to frontline staff who actually deliver services and I will emphasize investments that prevent the need for high remedial costs. We must find innovative ways to deal with the revenue side of the budget and allocate revenues more effectively.
Rosa Scarcelli, Democrat
To move Maine forward, as governor I will address both the short-term structural budget gap and the long-term problems that have caused us to continually manage in crisis. We first must measure the effectiveness of every single program and department in state government. We don’t know what to cut until we know what’s working. Second, raising our state student-teacher ratio closer to the national average will save enough to retrain displaced teachers and invest in better learning results. Finally, national health care reform will allow us to end Dirigo and bring MaineCare expenses in line with other states.