WATERVILLE — Alan Caron, independent candidate for Maine governor, opposes a proposal to run hydro-power from Quebec to Massachusetts via a new 145-mile transmission corridor in Maine; while Democratic candidate Janet Mills, independent Terry Hayes and Republican Shawn Moody say they have questions about the proposal and are not ready to say they support it.

The four candidates took part Thursday morning in a forum at Thomas College hosted by the college and the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce that drew about 150 people to the West River Road campus.

Caron, a businessman and political writer, said he doesn’t see the benefit for Maine in Central Maine Power’s plan, asking aloud why the state would want to damage an inland summer recreational area for the benefit of Massachusetts.

“I just don’t think it’s a very good deal for Maine at all,” he said.

Hayes, the state treasurer, said if she had to decide today on the project, she’d vote “no,” as she considers herself underinformed about it. But she added that the state needs a natural gas pipeline.

“It’s politics that’s stopping it,” she said.

Mills, Maine’s attorney general, said she has a lot of serious questions about the CMP proposal, which would offer Massachusetts millions in rebate money but no similar rebate offer to Maine ratepayers.

“I have a lot of questions about it. I’m not ready to sign on or sign off on it,” she said.

Moody, a businessman, said it is a big project with huge implications, both environmentally and economically, with fiber optic broadband Internet capacity in the line, which could provide rural areas with access. It also could help improve air quality, according to Moody, who also did not commit to supporting the plan, which he said has to be a good one.

“If it isn’t going to benefit Mainers, it’s a no-go,” he said.

With Thomas President Laurie Lachance asking prepared questions, the candidates addressed issues including health care costs, education, jobs and infrastructure in Maine.

Lachance said that in a recent “Making Maine Work” report, more than 1,000 Maine leaders said three of the top five most critical issues involve a skilled and educated workforce and asked the candidates how they would bring each Mainer to his or her greatest educational potential in a knowledge-based, technology-driven global economy.

Moody, who earlier had said not many people realize he serves on the University of Maine and Maine Community Colleges boards of trustees, said the issue is one of the most important challenges. He described the education system as a “bureaucratic top-down system” and vowed to focus on a pre-kindergarten-to-grade 12 system, if elected governor.

“It’s not the funding. It’s how we distribute the dollars so they get into the classroom,” he said.

Caron said that while a high-school diploma years ago was more than adequate for someone to be able to flourish, in the 21st century everyone needs more than that. He said he has proposed a two-year plan that allows people to get free higher education if they live and work in Maine for the 10 years following.

“We have to think creatively on this,” Caron said.

Maine Political Report



Hayes said she would focus on supporting ongoing efforts by MaineSpark, whose goal is to see 60 percent of Mainers by 2025 hold educational and workforce credentials that are valued by businesses and industry in the state and help people and families to be successful.

Mills said improvements must be made in education from kindergarten through grade 12 and include early childhood education. Curriculum also must be improved in secondary and post-secondary education, and students who want to go through career and technical education must be supported, she said.

The candidates were asked how they would work to transfer people from welfare to independence. Mills cited the need for more vocational and training opportunities and said people need to be given incentives to get off welfare.

“The Educare program here in Waterville is an incredible program,” she said, referring to the early childhood program that prepares pre-kindergarten children for school and involves parents in that effort. “I wish we could replicate that all across the state of Maine.”

Hayes said she thinks Maine must invest significantly in education that works, and that means teachers and learning.

“I think education is key to moving from welfare to independence and to work,” she said.

Moody said the state has to create a pathway so people can learn skills and train.

“I believe the root cause of generational poverty is because we’re turning our back on blue-collar Maine,” he said.

Caron said he grew up around a lot of poverty in Waterville’s South End. People must first change their attitudes about welfare, he said. People think of those who receive welfare as bad people who are not energetic, and that perspective must be changed, according to Caron, who said there are a lot of reasons people receive help, and a ladder must be created for them to climb their way out. They must not be punished because they are improving themselves in increments, he said.

Lachance asked the candidates how they would support Maine towns and cities, particularly service center communities such as Waterville that have many tax-exempt and nonprofit entities. As part of the question, she asked whether they would fund revenue sharing — and fund education at 55 percent.

Moody said schools and towns, for instance, are “siloed” in that they have their respective facilities and public works departments, as well as payroll departments, but those may be shared to alleviate costs. Schools and communities cannot afford the overhead and can introduce leaner approaches as businesses do, according to Moody.

“You’ve got to look at a different model,” he said.

Caron said he is in favor of funding education at 55 percent, as voters asked, and increasing revenue sharing to communities. Flattening management also is a focus for Caron.

“In a larger view, I’m for decentralizing government somewhat,” he said.

Hayes said revenue sharing should be fully funded.

“I think you either change the law or you do it,” she said.

Hayes characterized the 55 percent education funding issue as “right problem, wrong solution.”

She said she does not think schools will get the 55 percent and the conversation about that must change by putting other ideas on the table.

Mills said she supports service centers, which she called “victims of a lot of demographic challenges.” She said she also supports revenue sharing to communities.

“Here’s an economy right now where our sales tax revenues are up,” she said. “Why aren’t our towns getting their share of that?”

On health care, Mills said the state, which has one of the highest percentages of opioid-related deaths and a rising infant mortality rate, has to do something about public health infrastructure, including Medicaid expansion.

Hayes said the quickest way to address the issue is to focus on health and wellness, and Medicaid must be expanded. Moody said Maine businesses are the backbone of the state and 90 percent of small businesses have 20 or fewer employees. He said mandates and the structure need to be changed to “allow free enterprise to flow.”

Caron said because the United States is the richest society in history, there’s no excuse for any American to be without health care. He said transparency must be insisted on at the state level so people know costs ahead of time.

In a lightning round offering each candidate 10 seconds to respond, Caron said his favorite place in Maine is the north end of Great Pond in Rome; Hayes cited the St. Croix River; Mills said Farmington, her home town; and Moody cited Gorham and Rockwood Plantation.

Hayes’ favorite Maine heroine or hero, living or dead, is former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who also is a favorite of Mills; Moody cited his grandfather; and Caron said his favorite is former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, who also is a Waterville native.

Mills’ and Hayes’ favorite Maine food: potatoes. Moody prefers blueberries, and Caron sweet corn.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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