2016-10-21 / Community News

Election 2016

Meet the candidates

Maine State Senate, District 30

This year’s town councilor Jean-Marie Caterina will be looking to unseat District 30 senator Amy Volk. District 30 represents Gorham and parts of Buxton and Scarborough. The candidates are listed below in alphabetical order. The election will be taking place Tuesday, Nov. 8 at Scarborough High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m

Name: Jean-Marie Caterina

Age: 61

Position seeking: Senate District 30

Phone: 207-318-3440

Family: Married to Geoffrey MacLean, one daughter: Caterina MacLean

Education: master’s in social work from Boston College and bachelor’s from University of Maine, Orono

Organizations and activities: Member of the Scarborough Town Council; Volunteer at Project G.R.A.C.E.; supporter of Operation Hope; member, Buy Local, Scarborough

Top three issues: (in order of priority)

1. Property taxes must be stabilized. The shift from reducing income tax to increasing property tax must stop.

2. Public schools need to be properly funded in order to reduce the upward pressure on property taxes. Again, the Legislature in the last six years in particular has refused to fully fund schools. Rather than seeking solutions to the funding issue, they have continued to move funding towards charter schools or using the monies for programs other than education.

3. Seniors need to be supported. It is shameful that so many of our elders are struggling with food insecurity, lack of affordable housing options, and reductions in programs that lessen the impact the sharp increase in property taxes has had on those who own homes. I have

 worked to provide a $500 property tax rebate for struggling seniors in Scarborough. I have been a vocal advocate for developing affordable housing for seniors.

In your own words, why are you seeking elected office?

I am running for Senate District 30 because I think that elected officials should be responsive to the needs of our families and communities. We cannot keep asking towns to pass increased property taxes for middle class families, seniors on fixed incomes and small business owners while corporations and big businesses receive tax breaks. I hear this frequently while talking to people at their homes. In Scarborough, I worked on a program that make rebates of up to $500 available to vulnerable seniors. I have been a vocal advocate for the release of bonds to build affordable senior housing.

We need to take a close look at tax policy in this state and make adjustments to make sure that everyone is paying their fair share. This means restoring municipal revenue sharing, examining the income tax, and restoring true Circuit Breaker programs.

Additionally, we need to view public education as an investment in our future. Funding public schools at all levels is a priority if we are to strengthen our economic vitality. The Legislature should be funding schools at 55 percent. The charter schools who can pick and choose who they serve should not be allowed to draw money away from public education funding.

Finally, we need to return the state Legislature to the people. I chose to run as a Clean Elections candidate because I do not want to owe any special interests anything if I am elected to this position. Having worked with the Legislature previously, I have a clear understanding of the undue influence of lobbyists and others from outside the state upon citizen legislators. We must reduce the impact of this influence.

Name: Amy Volk

Age: 47

Position seeking: re-election to state Senate, District 30

Phone: 229-5091

Family: married to Derek Volk, with four children ages 12-25, two graduates of 

Scarborough High School, a 7th grader and 12th grader in Scarborough school system

Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Development from University of Maine

Organizations and activities: Senate chair of Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development; Member of Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary; Member of State Workforce Board; Invited to chair Legislative Caucus on Aging; Board Secretary of The Root Cellar; Founding board member

of Maine Connections Academy; Worship and Welcome Teams at The Rock Church; Moms in Prayer Scarborough; Volunteer for Project Graduation, Scarborough Cheering Club and Scarborough Softball Boosters.

Top three issues: (in order of priority):

1. Improving Maine’s economy by lowering business costs: Government shouldn’t create jobs and, in fact, Maine government has shrunk in the last six years. What government needs to do, however, is to foster an environment that encourages job creation. I am pleased to have been endorsed by National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business organization in the state of Maine, and I am very proud that I have consistently scored a “very strong” rating for my legislative record relative to building a strong economy in Maine. (Maine State Chamber Maine Economic Research Institute ratings) As a lifelong Mainer and a member of a family with a third generation family business supplying manufacturers in northern New England, I understand the importance of improving Maine’s economy and creating an environment that encourages job growth. Our high energy costs have played a key role in devastating Northern Maine paper mills and they threaten businesses in southern Maine, as well. BIW recently pointed to high electricity costs as the top reason they were not awarded a contract which went to a shipyard in Florida. To its credit, their union went to the negotiating table early in order to help the shipyard compete, but having to pay twice as much for power places those excellent jobs at risk. It is critical that we lift the 100 megawatt cap on hydro-electric power and take advantage of the clean, abundant and completely renewable power source in our own backyard. We cannot control our climate or our geography, so we should be working hard to change the things we can. Four years ago almost everyone in Maine who paid income tax was paying 8.5 percent. Today that rate is 7.15 percent and the top rate is not reached as quickly by lower income earners. Even with lower income taxes, we have seen surpluses in our state’s budget, amounting to close to $150 million in the last few years. I would like to see our income tax top out at 5 percent and believe we can get there without increasing sales tax. Lowering taxes frees up money to be spent into our economy and a more favorable tax environment is critical to economic growth.

2. Creating opportunities for young workers: Maine is demographically the oldest state in the country. Why is that significant? Businesses are scrambling to replace skilled workers as they retire, as well as to attract young people with the skills they know will be needed tomorrow. It is critical that our educational institutions are providing training for the jobs of the future. As a member of the State Workforce Board, I am very familiar with the complicated intersections between the business community, unemployed workers, the state university and community college system and even adult education. With the implementation of the new federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and with new leadership at the state level, these systems have improved dramatically. Our community college and university system, Southern Maine Community College and the University of Southern Maine in particular, are doing a tremendous job working together to help students save money and access education at the community college level, but then transfer as juniors to complete their bachelors degrees. However, we need all hands on deck. Maine has one of the highest rates of disabled workers and too many of them are not in the workforce when they could be. Too many of our students also leave the state for college never to return, even when they would like to, because they perceive a lack of opportunity in Maine. Even those who go to school in Maine are often wooed out of state by other opportunities. Wanting to explore the world is natural, but my desire is for any Mainer who wants to live and work in Maine to be able to achieve their dreams at home. I see the solution as related to job creation and the factors cited above, of course. We must continue to fund education adequately and equitably, while promoting Early College and Vocational Technical Education in our high schools. We must maintain the pressure on our community college and university system to keep costs low and programs lean so tuition remains affordable. We must also make sure every Maine college student is aware of the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit they can use to offset their student loans if they stay in Maine and we must continue working to attract out of state students, hoping that they fall in love with Maine (or a Mainer!). I have also been a controversial and outspoken supporter of new Mainers and allowing them to receive welfare benefits such as general assistance for a limited period of time while they wait for work permits, performing volunteer work in return. In my experience, many of them already have critical skills we need, such as dentistry and engineering. We must help them become re-credentialed in Maine. With 34 births and 40 deaths a day, we cannot rely upon our own reproduction for tomorrow’s taxpayers.

3. Helping our seniors: Ensuring that low and middle income seniors have access to safe and affordable housing is critically important. Keeping seniors home provides them with better physical and psychological health and saves everyone money. Next month I will be honored to receive the Elizabeth H. Mitchell Housing Advocacy Award from Maine Affordable Housing Coalition in large part because of my advocacy for the senior housing bond, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2015. I have also pledged to do what I can to ensure that that bond is released as soon as possible. Too many seniors in Maine live in unsafe homes or homes from which they cannot access services. Whether it’s preventing falls, ensuring access to telemedicine in rural areas, coordinating transportation or moving an isolated senior closer to services, we need to respect and protect our older citizens. I would also support an increased homestead exemption for senior citizens who have owned their homes 10 years or more. If re-elected, I have been invited to co-chair the Legislative Caucus on Aging, a very successful effort previously led by Speaker Mark Eves and Senator David Burns. I look forward to listening to and learning directly from seniors about the challenges they face and the solutions we can propose or support together.

Why are you seeking elected office?

Mainers are tired of hearing about what their elected officials won’t do together. They want to see us making progress. Throughout my tenure in the Maine Legislature, I have prided myself on supporting whatever makes the most sense, not just ideas from within my own party and I have the record to prove it. My legislative achievements from last session include further protections for victims of human trafficking, negotiating licensure for homebirth midwives, preventing organized retail theft, improvements to biker/pedestrian laws and making Maine the first state in the country to have safer lead exposure limits. Now lead-contaminated buildings that endanger children will be cleaned up and landlords that refuse face stiff penalties. I also worked across the aisle to stabilize funding for homeless shelters and improving access to early college for low income students. Due to my strong record of working with others, I was named one of Maine’s most bipartisan legislators by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.

I ran for office because a friend told me I had a knack for expressing my views without alienating others. One of the challenges I enjoy most about my work in Augusta is the negotiation involved in compromise. My record is one that reflects my commitment to finding the “sensible center” on issues. I believe the citizens of Maine deserve to be represented by lawmakers who listen, analyze, communicate and collaborate professionally in order to break partisan gridlock and move Maine forward. I pledge to continue doing just that.

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