The Star-Herald

Rebuilding Maine to give everyone a fair chance

At the end of the day, Maine people don’t care which party you identify with, they just want someone who is honest, believes in our state and vows to do what they say they’ll do. It’s one of the reasons I got into politics in the first place.

Over the next two years, lawmakers have an opportunity  to show the people of Maine what smart, fair and responsible leadership looks like. As Senate President, I intend to work with my colleagues in the Legislature and in the Blaine House to begin rebuilding Maine in a way that gives everyone a fair chance.

It shouldn’t be this difficult for hardworking folks to make a living and lead a healthy life. Health care is too expensive. Property taxes are out of control. Workforce shortages are growing. And the cost of job training programs and higher education is out
of reach for the average Mainer. I know it doesn’t have to be this way. If we are going to change things for our families and the next generation of Mainers, we need to get to work.

Mainers deserve to have their basic health care needs met. How can we expect to retain a strong workforce and strengthen our economy when folks are struggling to see a doctor, pay for prescription medicine and remain healthy? Last year, the Legislature passed two  new laws to help lower the cost of prescription drugs. These new laws do two things: 1) provide information on how drug companies price prescription medicine, and 2) allow for more cheaper, generic drugs to enter the market. This is good work,
but it’s just a start. We must work together to keep this momentum going.

Over the next two years, lawmakers must work together to hold greedy drug companies accountable for taking advantage of vulnerable Mainers. We must work together to bring more medical professionals to rural Maine so folks in the County don’t have to drive all the way to Bangor to see a specialist. And at the very least, we must make sure insurance companies can’t sell Mainers sham plans.

At the same time, we can’t lose sight of providing Mainers with meaningful property tax relief. It’s an issue we hear about not just from seniors but from working people of all ages across the state. We’ve increased the property tax exemption and property tax fairness credit but there is more we can do. I know we can thread the needle between making sure our municipalities and schools have what they need without forcing property taxpayers to foot the entire bill.

Finally, Maine must also work to grow our workforce and strengthen our economy. I want children growing up in Maine to know that they can have a successful future here whether they choose to go off to college and work in technology or whether they choose to attend  a trade school and work in farming, logging or other traditional industries. This means making additional schooling more affordable, providing debt relief and preventing companies from profiting off of student debt.

It’s equally important to protect workers and support the different industries across the state. I’m committed to fighting for “Hire Maine” legislation to protect Maine businesses and workers from unfair international competition. The bottom line is that we need all of our industries and regions to work together to build a strong, resilient economy.

All of this won’t happen overnight. But with an ambitious agenda, we can make some serious progress and improve the lives of Maine people.
If you had told me twenty years ago that someday, I would have the distinct honor of serving as President of the Maine Senate, I wouldn’t have believed you. For starters, I never had any desire to run for public office. And because for a so long, the idea of a working class person rising to the role of leadership – having a seat at the table – was not a reality.

While I’m honored to have earned the support of my peers in the Senate to serve in this role, I am especially grateful to the people of Northern Aroostook County. You have placed your faith and trust in me, time and time again. And it’s not something I take for granted. As Senate President, I promise to keep fighting for hardworking families and Aroostook County values.

Thank you for this opportunity to continue representing you in Augusta. My door is always open.

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