Thursday, December 12, 2013
Maine's U.S. Senate candidates have starkly different ideas about how to strengthen the economy and get unemployed Americans back to work.
From left, U.S. Senate candidates Angus King, Charlie Summers and Cynthia Dill listen to a question at the Sept. 17 debate.
2012 File Photo/John Ewing
Republican Charlie Summers would follow the prescription of his party's leaders: remove regulation and limit taxes so that small businesses can grow and hire again.
Democrat Cynthia Dill also sticks closely to her party's plan: invest in infrastructure and green energy and reduce the tax burden on the middle class by collecting more tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans.
Independent Angus King's economic plan includes a blend of those approaches -- streamlined regulation and government investments -- as well as student debt relief and other initiatives.
Jobs and the economy are, by far, the top two concerns of Maine voters, according to recent opinion polls. More than four years after the financial industry's collapse and the start of the deepest recession in decades, more than 50,000 Mainers -- 7.6 percent of the work force -- remain unemployed.
About the same number of workers are underemployed, working low-wage, temporary or part-time jobs just to pay the bills.
And many Mainers who didn't lose jobs have lost ground. Maine had the slowest rate of income growth of all states in 2011, according to federal statistics.
A survey of Maine voters conducted for the Portland Press Herald in mid-September showed that 35 percent believe they are less economically secure than they were four years ago, while 20 percent said they are better off.
Nearly nine in 10 voters polled said the candidates' positions on jobs and the economy will affect their decisions about who to send to the U.S. Senate for the next six years.
Maine's next senator won't single-handedly create any jobs or fix the economy. But the person who replaces Republican Olympia Snowe will have a chance to shape national policies that can set the stage for economic growth, or discourage it.
The Press Herald analyzed what the candidates have been saying about their approaches to the economy and jobs, and what business experience they would bring to the Senate. Here is a closer look.
Secretary of State Charlie Summers has campaigned with a simple, conservative economic plan: lower taxes and reduce regulation.
"If we want to do something to open up this economy and grow our way out of this economy, we've got to get government out of the way," Summers said during a debate in Bangor last month. "Get our debt under control and get our spending under control and let our small businesses grow our way out of this economy."
Summers supports spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit and opposes any tax increases, including on the wealthiest Americans, which he argues would discourage growth and prolong the slowdown. Along with opposing tax increases, he has said he supports repealing capital gains taxes on sales of stock.
Summers has not provided specifics about which small-business regulations he wants to eliminate, but he has said that Congress should follow the example set by the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature.
The Legislature's biggest step toward deregulation has been to roll back rules on the health insurance industry, such as allowing insurers to charge older subscribers more and younger subscribers less. Summers has not said he supports that particular change.
Summers also says he wants to help bring down high energy costs by encouraging more domestic oil and gas drilling.
He says he opposes using government spending, such as green energy subsidies, as a way to stimulate economic activity.
Summers would make at least one investment: He would introduce legislation to create the post of national small business advocate, a position similar to one he helped create in the Maine Secretary of State's Office. The advocate would act as a voice for small businesses that struggle with government regulation.
(Continued on page 2)