Local Politics

Eggs and Issues: October’s Gubernatorial Debate

Photo Courtesy of Jesse Bifulco

Thursday morning, October 6, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a gubernatorial debate at the Holiday Inn by the Bay. Incumbent Democratic governor Janet Mills was joined by the returning former Republican governor Paul LePage to talk about important issues that will be on the midterm ballot this November. The biggest topics were housing, taxes, and education. 

The homelessness issue in Portland has been ever growing, and both candidates were asked about the problems with the housing economy in Maine. “I’ve traveled around the state, I’ve learned about different avenues to housing. It’s exciting to see some of the ways that communities are responding to workforce housing needs,” Mills said. This spring she signed a zoning bill, LD 2003, to help landowners build housing. She also included “substantial funding” for new housing in Maine’s budget. LePage offered a unique idea for solving the housing shortage: “We have 260,000 seats in our public schools and 130,000 kids. We have too much brick and mortar. Let’s take some of those schools, consolidate them, and then turn around and take the buildings that are available and retrofit them like we did with Gilman Street High School in Waterville,” he explained.

Maine’s budget was a point of contention, given LePage’s strong opposition to income taxes and Mills’ expansion of the state budget. Both were asked how they would balance spending without raising, or even by removing taxes. LePage explained that government jobs would be the first to be cut. “We’re not in the business of growing government,” he said. Mills argued that her economy was already robust enough to “withstand a recession for the next 15 months,” thanks to the Rainy Day fund, which she has quadrupled during her tenure. She also cited a report that said Maine had enough money to pay its bills for the first time in 20 years. LePage discounted that achievement by explaining how COVID-19 brought “nearly $15 billion from Uncle Joe,” and how Mills completely spent the state’s funds in her first year.

On the topic of education, both candidates found common ground. Despite his conservative tendencies, LePage supported paying teachers stipends to tutor students and hiring stay-at-home moms and grandparents to cover childcare. “I believe that parents and grandparents are part of the solution,” he said. Mills added that she supported stipends for childcare workers and even created Maine’s first childcare plan. She went on to explain the importance of Career in Technical Education (CTE) schools, which train students in trades and could help with the labor shortage facing the state. Even as an attorney general, she invested several hundred thousand dollars into plumbing programs at CTE schools in Western Maine. She pushed a holistic approach to education, which values certifications that only take a few months to achieve. LePage agreed on the importance of CTE schools. He expressed a desire to get even younger students into them, from seventh grade onwards. “We have to give our students the opportunity and options.” While he was governor, he fought to implement credit transfer between CTE, community colleges, and the Umaine campuses.The entire debate can be found on the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Youtube Channel. Both Paul LePage and Janet Mills will be joined by independent Sam Hunkler on the general election ballot on November 8.

Categories: Local Politics

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s