Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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Mills offers 12-point plan as he launches campaign

By Bonnie Washuk, Lewiston Sun Journal
Wednesday, August 3,2005

AUGUSTA - Farmington native and Republican state Sen. Peter Mills, 62, announced Tuesday he's running for governor.

In addition to Mills, the 2006 race includes Democrat Gov. John Baldacci; Republican Peter Cianchette of South Portland; Nancy Oden, an environmentalist and independent from Jonesboro; and Stephen M. Stimpson, a Bangor Republican. Rick Bennett, a Republican of Norway, is considering running.

Mills, a seasoned legislator and lawyer, said he wants to be governor because Maine is in trouble. "The state is in a tailspin with a lot of problems. Who wants to preside over that?" Mills asked. But he said he has thought about how to fix the problems and has a plan. "I'm going to run on it. I'm going to get it done."

Mills released his 12 steps for what he called Maine's road to recovery. That plan indicates he'd shake things up if elected, including:

  • Increasing accountability in education, including withholding high school diploma unless students pass a test. He'd extend the school year for kindergarten through grade 12 one week, and would mandate that students exercise during the school day.

  • Asking voters to decide budget and tax changes through referendum votes. Augusta should trust the public more, he said. For instance, voters should be asked if they want higher sales tax in exchange for lower income taxes.

  • Changing Dirigo Health by creating a high-risk pool, which would kick out the sickest and lower premiums for others. "Dirigo is absorbing enormous amounts of state subsidy for relatively few people," Mills said. Dirigo architect Trish Riley disagreed, saying that of the $53 million in start-up costs, $42 million is left, and the program is serving 8,000 people. "They're trying to kill the baby before the baby finishes the crawling stage. We've got to stay the course."

  • Mills said he'd cut Medicaid spending, demand higher co-payments from some, and ration nonessential benefits. Some prescriptions are one example of nonessential care, he said. Some medications are essential, while others improve living but are not essential.

  • Stopping tax favors to businesses "that are here today and gone tomorrow." And he said he would do more to help traditional industries: fishing, tourism, agriculture, forest products and manufacturing.

  • Junking duplicate layers of government. Taxpayers now pay for three layers of law enforcement: state police, county sheriffs and local police. Mills said he'd do more consolidating.

  • The changes are needed, Mills said, because Maine is trying to provide more services than it can afford. Maine has "more than our share" of low-income and disabled citizens. Maine is also among the oldest states in the nation, and young people are leaving for better paying jobs.

    "We have 41 percent more people working in health care and social services than is the norm for other states," Mills said. "Although our wages are not low, we have fewer people working which accounts for low household incomes."

    Mills has been a state legislator for more than 10 years. This year he and others led the people's veto effort to overturn borrowing to close the state budget. That effort was successful. In the last days of the session, lawmakers voted for a budget without borrowing by cutting programs and raising cigarette taxes.

    Mills comes from a well-known family; his sister Janet Mills is a Democratic state representative and his sister Dora Mills is director of the state Bureau of Health. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Harvard College in 1965. He served five years on Navy destroyers, then graduated from the Maine Law School in 1973. He has a law firm in Skowhegan. The father of three grown children, Mills is married to Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills. He lives in Cornville.