In his bid for re-election, a former Speaker of the House will face a political newcomer and longtime member of the Maine National Guard on Tuesday in the race for representative from House District 77, which includes the town of Sidney and parts of Oakland.

Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, faces Democrat Alan Tibbetts, 57, of Sidney, in Tuesday’s election. Tibbetts retired last year after 33 years in the Maine National Guard, a component of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army National Guard.

Nutting, 67, is no stranger to state and local government, serving as speaker of the House in 2011 and 2012 and on the Oakland Town Council from 1977 to 1988.

He also served in the Maine House from 1999 to 2006 and began his current stretch in 2009.

“Helping my neighbors deal with the bureaucracy in Augusta is what I enjoy the most, and I have the background to do so effectively,” Nutting said. “There is a lot more to do to bring government spending under control so that people can find jobs in Maine and afford to live here and raise their families.”

In his military post, Tibbetts said, he served as a fraud and waste auditor, a labor contract negotiator and a manager of a $20 million budget.

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“I’m running because the people of Maine can do better and deserve better than what they have been getting,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing people who work hard and play by the rules keep losing ground because the people in power change the rules when it suits them. It shouldn’t matter where a good idea comes from or who gets the credit, what matters is getting it right.”

Nutting is a pharmacist at Oakland Pharmacy with a degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy.

Tibbetts has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in military studies from the the American Military University.

The candidates differ on the issue of state revenue sharing with municipalities. In recent years, budgetary pressures have pushed the state to reduce funds that once went to towns and cities.

Both Nutting and Tibbetts say they do not support increasing taxes to provide more money to local municipalities.

But Nutting said he believes the state is “giving what it can” to municipalities and that providing more would mean cutting funding for schools, transportation or health services.

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“The alternative which I suggest is to do what we can to attract more businesses to Maine, which will increase our revenues and allow us to increase funding,” he said.

To attract more businesses, Nutting calls for increased workforce education to better meet the needs of employers, a reduction in income taxes and an increase in the supply of affordable energy.

Meanwhile, Tibbetts called government a “partnership between towns, school districts, the state and the federal government” and said the state should be contributing more.

“In order to reduce local property taxes, the state must increase municipal revenue sharing and honor the people’s will by paying more toward public education,” he said.

The candidates also differ on Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to veto a bill that would have seen the state accept federal money offered under the Affordable Care Act to expand the state’s Medicaid program, called MaineCare.

Nutting has voted against the Medicaid expansion bill and says he will continue opposing the expansion of Medicaid under ACA.

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“It is not free and will cost Maine taxpayers millions of dollars that should first be spent on the elderly and the truly needy,” Nutting said. “Because of Maine’s generosity, it is being treated unfairly when compared to other states, and many people could instead access the federal exchanges for insurance which is fairly affordable.”

Meanwhile, Tibbetts says he supports Medicaid expansion, because it will create jobs. He also said he supports the expansion as a matter of ethics because too many families are “going bankrupt because of health care costs.”

“Accepting the expansion makes economic sense,” he said. “It will add approximately 4,000 good jobs to the Maine economy and help reduce insurance premiums. Our hospitals are in bad financial straits because we did not expand, and this is only going to get worse the longer we wait.”

Medicaid, which is funded jointly by states and the federal government, provides healthcare coverage to the poor.

If Maine were to expand Medicaid under the ACA, an additional 60,000 state residents would qualify for the benefit. The federal government would cover the full cost of the increase from 2014 through 2016.

However, beginning in 2017, federal subsidies would begin to taper, eventually dropping to 90 percent of the cost by 2020.

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Meanwhile, not expanding Medicaid leaves a coverage gap in which some residents are too poor to qualify for federal subsidies to pay for health insurance and too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid.

According to a 2014 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit health policy group based in California, approximately 24,390 Mainers fall into that gap.

Asked whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to work or receive welfare benefits in the state, both candidates agreed in principle that undocumented immigrants should not be able to do so.

However, Nutting draws a hard line on the issue while Tibbetts leaves some room for the state to aid undocumented immigrants on a temporary basis.

“Undocumented is another word for illegal. We should not use taxpayer funds to support people who are in this state illegally,” Nutting said. “Charitable organizations or individuals can certainly help, but to take money away from Maine’s hard-working people to give it to illegal aliens is just plain wrong and encourages more illegals to come here.”

“In general, no,” Tibbetts said when asked the same question. “However, undocumented adults and children get to make their case. They cannot legally work while their case is being resolved and should not starve or live on the streets in the meantime.”

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Nutting and Tibbetts both say they are voting against Question 1, a statewide referendum that aims to prohibit the use of traps, baiting and dogs to hunt bears with limited exceptions.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @ebelanger


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