A two-term incumbent and retired salesman faces a two-year town councilor and attorney in the race for the House District 108 seat.

Republican Rep. John Picchiotti, 73, of Fairfield, is running against Democrat Aaron Rowden, 30, also of Fairfield, in House District 108, which includes Fairfield, Mercer and Smithfield.

Picchiotti, who is seeking a third term in the House, said he ran for the seat originally because a friend asked him to do so. He also said he believes that “if you take from the community, you have to give back.”

Rowden, an attorney at Schneider & Brewer in Waterville, said he’s running to help Maine grow.

“I really believe that Maine has a lot of potential for growth with the right leadership, and now is the time to make an investment in our infrastructure and education so that we can capitalize on the opportunities that we have,” he said.

Both candidates see increasing property taxes as a problem faced by a lot of people in their districts and the state.

Picchiotti said it’s necessary to keep taxes down so seniors can afford to stay in their homes. He does not support Question 2, though, which would increase taxes on income over $200,000 to help fund education to the full 55 percent the state had originally promised.

“The tax sounds good,” he said. “The problem is, the way the initiative is written, the money could go into the general fund (and not toward education).”

The tax also would make Maine the second-highest-taxed state in the country, Picchiotti said, which would hurt businesses and prompt people to move.

While he acknowledged that the state needs to deal with the problem of fully funding schools, he said there are different ways to do it other than the current tax proposal. He supports keeping regulations “simple and fair” so they don’t put tax burdens on businesses looking to come to Maine.

Rowden, however, said he supports the proposed income tax increase, though he doesn’t think it’s perfect.

“I think there is going to be work that needs to be done in the Legislature to tweak what Question 2 represents,” he said, adding that work should be done to make sure the formula hands out the money in a fair way.

The most pressing issue in District 108, Rowden said, is the increase in local taxation to “cover costs that had traditionally been the state’s responsibility,” which makes it harder for people to buy and keep property.

“We need to stop the shifting of costs from broad-based taxation to property taxes,” he said. “If people can’t afford to stay in their communities, how can we expect to develop the community?”

Rowden said he supports a “fair and affordable tax system” that would allow people to “keep what they’ve worked so hard for.”

Picchiotti and Rowden also both agree on some ways to combat what some say is a growing opiate epidemic in the state.

Picchiotti said the state has to expand rehabilitation programs and get more medication to help treat addicts. The state recently hired 10 additional agents for the state’s Drug Enforcement Agency and allocated another $2 million in funding for the crisis, which “is a start,” he said.

“While we are moving in the right direction, we must work with our youth to provide them with accurate information and make more treatment available,” he said. He voted in favor of bills relating to naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioids’ effect in overdose casesm saying that although it’s “very dangerous,” he’s seen that it also can be “life-saving.” He also supports the Prescription Monitoring Program, which lets doctors see if patients have gotten medications elsewhere.

Rowden said the state has to focus on drying up supply and demand for the drugs.

“We need fewer addicts,” he said, which means “we need to get treatment for them so they are no longer participating in this illegal and destructive market.”

Rowden said restoring the fiscal standing of local municipalities is part of the equation, because that will allow them to put more money toward police departments.

He also supports criminal justice reforms for drug dealers that would lengthen sentences and house them separately from “potential customers.”

“I don’t think it helps to put addicts who have been locked up for theft or drunk driving in the same cell as a drug dealer,” Rowden said. “We need to truly disrupt their access to their market.”

Picchiotti and Rowden disagree on the minimum wage, though.

“When I was in business, I never even thought about hiring someone at minimum wage,” Picchiotti said. “Minimum wage is a training wage and then you work up.”

While he said he thinks the state needs to look at the minimum wage, he thinks the proposed increase to $12 by 2020 is too much.

Rowden, however, said he thinks the proposal “represents a reasonable increase over time.”

He hopes the Legislature will pay attention to the effects of the increase to make sure “we aren’t stifling our business interests.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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