Sally Manninen, substance abuse prevention coordinator at York Hospital, chats with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins at an Eggs & Issues event  Friday morning at York County Community College. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Sally Manninen, substance abuse prevention coordinator at York Hospital, chats with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins at an Eggs & Issues event Friday morning at York County Community College. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

WELLS — Go anywhere in Maine, and machine shops are begging for workers, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Friday.

There are jobs to fill, and few skilled workers. So when industries in York County were looking to change that, they looked to York County Community College. For the past few years, there’s been a YCCC program in Sanford to train machinists, supplying companies like Pratt & Whitney and others with skilled employees to get the job done.

“We need to make sure these kinds of connections are made,” said Collins at an Eggs & Issues breakfast at the college Friday morning. The session was held, not surprisingly, in the college’s new building, named for Pratt & Whitney. Folks mingled in the Hannaford Lecture Hall, and later, listened to Collins speak from seating supplied by Hussey Seating of North Berwick.

The breakfast was the first public function in the new building, the first new building on the campus since 1997. 

“When people in Washington want to solve a problem, they speak to Senator Collins,” said YCCC President Barbara Finkelstein as she introduced Maine’s senior senator.

Collins spoke about the apprenticeship program at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

“I make sure of funding for 100 new apprentices” annually, she said, so there are trained workers at the Kittery shipyard now and in the future.

As well, she said she has joined with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, to work on a bill that sends more money to the states for pre-apprentice and apprentice programs.

Collins talked about temporary visa programs that help Maine companies fill summer jobs in the tourism industry, DACA, the health care and a host of other topics — including her political future — to a full house at the community college. 

Collins said she’ll decide by the end of September whether she’ll join the race for governor of Maine. She pointed out that she is currently 15th in seniority in the U.S. Senate (she was 99th when she began her Senate career). 

“Seniority counts in the Senate,” Collins said. But she also said governing a state is more of a hands-on job and that she has ideas for economic development. She said she’s looking to be where she can do the most good.

In a brief news conference with reporters following her talk, Collins said Congress needs to act on the issue of so-called “dreamers” — undocumented young people brought to this country as children by their parents. 

Collins said President Trump’s timing on the issue was “extremely unfortunate.”

“He’s right in that Congress needs to act,” said Collins. The senator said she believed President Obama, fed up with Congress’ inaction on the issue in 2012, exceeded his authority when he created the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, that allows undocumented immigrants age 31 and younger to stay in the country and work for two years.

• On health care, Collins said she believes there will be legislation this year to try and stabilize insurance markets, with a view to a larger, future discussion on the health care issue. She said both parties had erred on how they handled health care bills in the past — the Democrats when the Affordable Care Act was being crafted and more recently her own party. She said she’s encouraged that public hearings are being conducted. Collins pointed out that an earlier plan that would have made cuts to Medicaid would not only have hurt Maine residents but the Maine economy as well. She pointed out that in rural Greenville, the largest employer is its hospital, with 180 workers, and that the facility derives 65 percent of its revenue from Medicaid.

On another health care note, Collins said she is working with the Food and Drug Administration to see what can be done to speed bringing generic medication to the market to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

• On the temporary work visa issue, Collins noted that the cap of 66,000 visas in one of two temporary visa programs was reached in February and March, far earlier than the beginning of Maine’s tourist season. She said she’s talked to tourism-related businesses that are keeping shorter hours because they can’t get workers. She said 15,000 additional visas issued in July was not enough. Collins said the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill  to address the issue.

She was asked about how she maintains her “cool” in Washington these days.

“It’s been an extremely difficult year,” Collins acknowledged. “Each day brings a new crisis.”

Collins said she relies on her family, and that her faith sustains her. And in the summer, she can get into her kayak — “my most serene place” — and at times leaves her cell phone at the camp.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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