Matt Pouliot, left, and Kalie Hess, right. Courtesy photos

AUGUSTA — Incumbent Republican Sen. Matt Pouliot and Democratic challenger Kalie Hess both say they have the skills and proven track records to take on the difficult challenges facing the state and Senate District 15.

Though the two candidates competing may not agree on what those challenges are, and how to handle them. The district includes Augusta, China, Oakland, Sidney and Vassalboro.

Hess cited the coronavirus pandemic as the most pressing issue facing the state. She said her experience as a public health professional, which focused on bringing diverse groups of people together to come up with solutions to some of the state’s most challenging problems, will serve and the state well.

“I have built a successful career here in central Maine working on some of the most significant issues the district and state are facing,” Hess said. “I have worked in partnership with police departments on substance use prevention and racial justice issues. I have helped get local healthy foods into communities and help them create safe ways to exercise outside. I have worked to make sure Mainers can get and afford health care. And I currently work to make sure Maine children can get the oral health care they need. I will use the same collaborative approach I have always used to continue to work on these issues and more in the legislature.”

Pouliot said affordable housing is a major challenge locally and across the state that will continue to be an issue unless more housing is made available. He said he worked in the legislature to secure funding for new housing projects and co-sponsored a bill that passed with broad bipartisan support he said will add an estimated 1,000 housing units in coming years.

“Access to affordable prescription drugs is also a very serious issue,” Pouliot said. “We need to make sure that people have access to transparent pricing and more options as to where they want to buy their prescriptions to help reduce costs. We have to grow Maine’s economy through better job creation. Employers are desperate for a skilled, trained workforce to meet the demands. Finally, we are going to have to work diligently to make sure Maine can come out of this pandemic healthier and stronger than before. This will require working with businesses to make sure they can stay open while also being safe during this time.”

Pouliot said Maine should be able to reduce spending to address the revenue shortfall expected to result from the pandemic’s impact on the economy, because the shortfall amount is projected to bring state funding down to about what he said the state operated on just a few years ago.

He said he voted against the current state budget, the first time he’s done so while in the legislature, because he felt the increase in spending of $1 billion over two years was too significant and Maine people would not be able to afford it. He said the state also needs to attract people to live and work good paying jobs here, to broaden the population and thus the tax base.

Hess said she supports the cost savings across state departments the current administration has asked for in response to the financial impact of the pandemic, but said the state cannot cut more from departments that are currently working to address the extra needs posed by the pandemic.

She said she’s willing to consider tax policy changes providing tax incentives to help local businesses thrive and will support closing tax loopholes that allow large corporations to not pay their fair share to communities. She would consider lowering the exclusion amount on the estate tax, which she said currently allows $5.8 million to be passed along tax-free. And she said the state should protect or increase revenue sharing with municipalities, to help alleviate the financial impact on municipalities and property taxpayers.

Hess said she loves Maine and wants to see Mainers thrive.

“People in this district work hard,” she said. “I see how much everyone contributes to our community, and I see how much insight our neighbors have to help us address the challenging problems we face. It is time for a fresh perspective in the Maine Senate, and someone who values science and public health as we face this pandemic and its associated challenges.”

Pouliot said he has a proven track record of building relationships with legislators from both sides of the aisle to help get things done that make a difference for his constituents.

“My experience in the legislature, as well as in the community and in business will also continue to prove valuable in finding solutions that work for the people of Kennebec County and Maine,” he said. “We are going to be facing some very serious budget constraints this next session. As a business owner, I know what it takes to keep the doors open and people employed during difficult times.”

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