Present employment: Legislator, Registered Nurse
Highest level of education completed: Master’s degree in green design
Previous elected public office(s) held: City councilor, two three-year terms, mayor for one year.
Statement: I have a 40-year career in health care, health policy and health care reform. I have pursued lifelong education: a bachelor’s in nursing, graduate work in public health and public administration, a graduate certificate in organizational development, and a master’s degree in green design. About 10 years ago, I realized I wanted to shift focus and serve my community.
I started by taking a volunteer position on Rockland’s Comprehensive Planning Commission and Rockland’s Economic Development Committee. I then became a city councilor for two terms. I was invited to run for the Legislature and my previous volunteer experience with elected office, work in health care policy and a passion for environmental and climate change work, made it a good fit.
This last third of my life is about public service, giving back for all the blessings I have had living in and growing up in the U.S. The opportunities I had seem to be disappearing and never existed for many. Our concern for the common good over individual self seems to have declined. I wanted to be part of returning civility to our body politic, to create and pass policy based on helping people thrive, to create and pass policy that repairs the damage we have done to our shared planet and the other species we share it with.
I am a reformer at heart. I can always imagine a better world and want to work to make it so.
What are your thoughts on proposals to do away with Maine’s income taxes?
The Maine income tax taxes those who make more with a higher rate than those who make less: the more you make, the higher your taxes. If we do away with Maine’s income tax, we need to make up that revenue in some other way. Both the property tax and the sales tax are regressive, in other words everyone, no matter their income, will have to pay the same higher sales tax on everything they buy. The same is true for the property tax; it would need to go up. But the property tax is already a crushing burden on young working-class families and seniors on fixed incomes. Doing away with Maine’s income tax would increase the burden on seniors and young families, making the ability to own a home or to continue owning a home more difficult.
When it comes to the state budget, what do you see as top priorities for spending or cuts?
We have an acute labor shortage. Maine’s wages need to be competitive with the rest of New England if we want people to move here or young people to stay here. If we are to attract people to Maine they must be able to find houses to buy and apartments to rent. Those rents must be affordable given the wages being paid. If we want to attract people and grow our own workforce our education systems must be good, there must be quality daycare that is accessible and affordable.
I would focus on a livable wage being the ground floor to everything else. Housing will be built if there are people who can afford to buy or rent. If people make a livable wage then Maine does not need to run hundreds of programs subsidizing employers who don’t pay a living wage. There will always be Mainers who need our help, who are disabled or elderly or have lost their job during a recession, but too many Mainers are working one and two jobs but depend on the state to provide heating assistance, rental assistance, SNAP benefits for food, etc. because their wages are too low. We are not subsidizing them, we are subsidizing their employers. This needs to change.
How can Maine best make health care affordable for its citizens?
Maine has expanded Medicaid (MaineCare) to cover all low-income residents and children. Maine runs a health care exchange to ensure our private insurance options provide real health insurance rather than scam coverage. But premiums, copays and deductibles are too high for the average person to feel truly insured. Our health care system is fragmented, opaque, with a focus on specialty care and expensive procedures instead of preventive health and good management of chronic disease. A true fix would be Medicare for all, and a focus on an excellent primary care system, but that is only something the federal government can do. Many states, including Maine, have tried to create universal health insurance and failed due to the costs and complexity… But we can focus on increasing the numbers of federally qualified health centers that focus on primary care, integrated with mental health care, vision care and dental care, all while offering a sliding fee scale. We can require our large hospital systems to increase their focus on preventative, primary and mental health care as the foundation of the health care system. We can require hospital billing to be transparent; we can require health insurance companies to pay fair rates, on time, and without requiring patients and providers to spend months arguing and appealing arbitrary denials of service.
What policy changes would you support to protect the environment and respond to climate change?
I support the governor’s climate action plan. Every decision the state makes needs to take into account climate change: change zoning to create less sprawl; less hard surfaces; build more housing, make sure it is energy efficient and uses renewable energy; building schools, make sure they are energy efficient, and can double as shelter during a disaster…; increase access to fast internet so people can work from anywhere, including home, using less fuel to commute; more charging stations so people feel secure buying an electric car. Actively, develop programs to increase the energy efficiency of people’s current homes with 0 or low-cost loans and subsidies. Require our monopoly energy companies to build a stronger, safer power grid with a focus on renewables, or make them public companies instead. Start planning and taking actions now in preparation for an increase in sea level rise of one foot or more. Rockland’s sewage treatment plant is at sea level as are many other critical infrastructures along the coast. We need action plans now.
Would you vote to support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion?
I already have and will continue to do so. A woman’s autonomy over her own body is paramount. No one else gets to decide when or if she has children, how many or none at all. Forced birth is a profound attack on personal freedom. It affects a woman’s health, ability to work, support her family, control the size of that family, go to school and create financial stability. Forced birth legislation places women’s lives at profound risk and creates a medical system that worries first about breaking the law and second about what is best care for a woman who is pregnant. Already, the horror stories are mounting up in states that have banned abortion even in the case of rape, incest or when the life and the health of the mother is at stake.
Six bills submitted by Republicans in the last legislative session would have added barriers to legal abortion. Democrats in the Maine Legislature defeated them all. Abortion is legal in Maine but only as long as the majority of legislators believe in a women’s right to choose for herself.
What changes would you like to see in the way police do their jobs in Maine?
I would like to see the police departments evolve into true public safety departments, with a myriad of professionals working there to address a wide range of issues that often fall to police departments to manage with little or no training. I would like to see housing and public health officials, mental health officials, substance abuse professionals working alongside public safety officers. I would like required de-escalation training and to discourage Maine police departments from acquiring weapons of war from the Department of Defense. I believe we need new ideas for addressing substance abuse, which lies at the root of many property crimes. I believe we need to pay police officers more. Theirs is a high-stress and dangerous job, we need to hold them to the highest standards and we must pay them accordingly.