Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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Mills' Answers to Where the candidates stand on racinos, abortion, taxes, other issues
Portland Press Herald | Sunday, May 28, 2006

Q: What is the most important thing Maine should do to strengthen its economy?

PETER MILLS: First, run the government itself like a business, to earn the respect and confidence of private investors and Maine voters as well. Secondly, invest more public dollars in the Maine Technology Institute, in biotechnology and in other high-tech research-and-development initiatives that are most promising for growth.

Q: Do you support the "taxpayer bill of rights" spending cap that will be on the ballot Nov. 7?

MILLS: The most important part of TABOR, that half of the bill that purports to constrain state government, is unconstitutional and ineffective; while the remaining half attempts to repeal the New England town meeting. I favor a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds legislative voting restriction on taxes and spending, but TABOR fails to deliver it.

Q: Can the state do anything to control gas prices or cut consumption?

MILLS: Gas prices are set by markets and not by state government. Consumption can be constrained by promoting conservation - for example, through tax credits or other incentives for hyperefficient buildings and economical cars and appliances.

Q: How should the state best protect its natural resources?

MILLS: Sensible, but not burdensome, controls over land use; moderate and persistent funding of the Land for Maine's Future Program; and incentives to encourage private land owners to preserve current uses for their land, for example, through the tree-growth, open-space, and working-waterfront programs.

Q: Should the state change its online sex-offender registry to better protect the people who are listed there?

MILLS: Protecting Maine children and families is my first concern. If criminal-justice professionals recommend changing registry requirements to reflect the seriousness of an offender's convictions, I would respect their recommendations.

Q: Should the state broaden the sales tax and use the additional revenue to lower other taxes?

MILLS: I prefer to control spending first, to determine whether we might lower property and income taxes by that means before expanding other taxes.

Q: Would you keep or eliminate the Dirigo Choice insurance program?

MILLS: I would fix it. Dirigo should not be supported by a sales tax on health-care costs incurred by those already paying for insurance. I would restrict eligibility to those who are uninsured and I would make subsidies available through all insurance carriers, not just Anthem.

Q: Would you allow more racinos in Maine?

MILLS: Only if Maine people directly vote for them.

Q: Do you support legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine?

MILLS: No. Maine law already contains partnership and registry provisions that are available to protect domestic partners. The same rules apply to couples of different sexes as well as to those of the same sex.

Q: Would you do anything to change Maine's abortion laws?

MILLS: The 1989 compromise law adequately limits abortion. Abortions and unwanted pregnancies are dramatically declining in Maine through education, family planning and moral and emotional counseling. If the common goal is to eliminate the need for abortions, Maine is well on its way to making them as rare as possible.

Q: Should the state keep legislative term limits as they are now, extend them or abolish them?

MILLS: After a decade of experimenting with term limits, if Maine people vote to do so, I favor extending the House limit to six terms because the House needs better and more experienced leadership. However, the Senate has no difficulty in attracting experienced people and can get along fine with the present four-term restriction.

Q: Are Learning Results a good way of assessing student performance or should Maine get rid of them?

MILLS: Although Learning Results are important, sensible assessments are even more so. We should annually be measuring growth, or "value added," for each child and classroom rather than attempting to define the status of a school through testing at widely separated grade intervals. Teachers and students alike need to be recognized for successful educational growth.

Q: Should Maine reduce the number of school districts through regionalization?

MILLS: Number of small neighborhood schools at all levels of K-12. To make such schools affordable, we must support them with more efficient administration. Consolidated districts will eliminate redundant administrators, save money through volume purchasing and gain efficiency with fewer bargaining units and more uniform contracts for teachers.

Q: Is Maine's homeland-security apparatus geared up for a disaster?

MILLS: I believe so. The state seems to have handled the recent flooding emergency in York County fairly well.

Q: Is Maine ready to deal with a bird-flu pandemic?

MILLS: A pandemic of any kind is to be dreaded by even the most well-prepared of societies. I am sure that the bureau of health has the situation as well under control as can be expected and would be advising the governor otherwise were it not so.

Q: Is the Department of Health and Human Services, which merged two formerly separate agencies, too big?

MILLS: The issue is not simply one of size but a lack of leadership, poor management, a calcific bureaucracy and entitlement rules that are too expansive.