On the Ballot: House District 67, Susan Austin vs. Anne Gabs

House District 67 — Incumbent Susan Austin (R) against Anne Gass (Independent). D67 towns within the BN coverage area include: Casco (part), Frye Island and Raymond (part).

Susan Austin

Name: Susan Wilkinson Austin

Age: 70

Party: Republican

Family: Married 48 years to Ernie, four children, 12 grandchildren; avid walker, recycling enthusiast, home decorating

Education: Associate Degree of Science

Occupation: Prior medical secretary/assistant and management assistant

Community/Civic Organizations: LaLeche League International certified leader, 10 years; Gray-New Gloucester School Board, five terms; Gray Town Council, one term; GPGOG town representative; Gray Town Election Ballot Clerk, eight years; Maine Wildlife Park advocate; Gray Business Association; Gray-New Gloucester Optimist Club, 18 years, ambassador; Crystal Lake Association; Gray Historical Society; Gov. King appointee to the Pineland Conversion Committee; Gray Senior Housing Committee; The Hawthorne Community Association; Friends of the Gray Public Library; Patriot-Crystal Lake Ice Fishing Derby board member; St. Gregory’s Parish Council, 18 years; She LEADS; UMane Leader’s Program

Years in Legislature: 2002-2018 and 2014-2018 (12 Years)

Committee: Labor Commerce Research & Economic Development/Ranking Republican

Social Media: Facebook

Q.1 — What qualities would you bring to the position? Qualities that I bring to the table: steadfast, reliable, consistently present and accounted for, even tempered, with ability to often bring levity to a conflicting situation which helps to avoid accelerated tension.

Q.2 — How do you plan to contact/keep constituents up to date on issues? I will continue many of my established avenues to reach out to our folks — weekly e-newsletters, mailed Session Reviews, presence at community events, responses to e-mails and telephone inquiries for assistance, sharing of state department flyers and press releases, correspondence to students and letters to our district’s Town Reports.

Q.3 — How can the state strengthen education? Education can be strengthened by allowing more home rule decisions made tailored to our individual school/region populations and specific needs of SADs, and RSUs verses top-down state mandated wisdom with a constant flow of disruption with changes in teaching techniques.

Q.4 — What can be done to increase economic development at the state and local levels? Development: we need to wisely debate the creation of oversight in newly proposed legislation, and refrain from unnecessary, costly, time-consuming requirements and schemes which cuts into productivity, profit and expansion of business and healthy growing product lines. We need to embrace the creation of new business with new products rather than thinking in terms of restraint on their presence and ultimately their success.

Q.5 — There is increasing concern regarding access to healthcare. What is your concern, and what can be done at the state level?  Healthcare: Healthcare availability options can be increased to more of our citizens by the presence of more insurance companies in our state. More carriers will increase the competition by offering plans that more accurately fit individual’s needs such as for young adults, young families and older adults without families. By these means, people will be able to shop and choose the coverage they believe will best met their needs and affordability. We need to be able to shop across state lines for health coverage much as we do for other insurance products.

Q.6 — What is your position on Question 1 regarding the use of tax dollars to provide home care for seniors and the disabled? Referendum Question 1 is exactly what you want to support if you do not want our young people to stay in Maine to contribute to our communities and growth of commerce, and you do not want new families to move to Maine. This policy, if accepted, will certainly hurt the neediest of our seniors as there is no “means testing” within it to ensure that the neediest elders come first in line to receive care and benefits.

Q.7 — What is your position on Medicaid expansion? I saw closely and learned firsthand what expansion does to a state of our size in terms of population (1.3 million) and expanse of rurality. In the last expansion, the state carried a bill to the tune of $750 million by the time it was paid to Maine hospitals. It represented years of tenuous tardy bills to MaineCare providers and that long void of payments took a toll on the medical service supply chain and hospital staff, subcontractors and vendors, as well.

Q.8 — What do you feel are the three main issues facing Maine today, and what are your ideas/plans to address these issues if elected? Main issues: Fundamental strong budgeting procedures with attention to a corresponding strong Rainy Day Account for emergencies. A more efficient, predictable way of repairing/improving our infrastructure with a renewed discussion around a viable east/west corridor to enhance Maine product getting to market. Continued attention to the newly appointed department for the sale of recreational marijuana and pursuit of a testing unit to monitor levels in cases of traffic accidents or incidents of personal harm.

Q.9 — With the number of deaths caused by drug overdoses continuing to rise in Maine, what do you feel can be done to address the opioid crisis? I voted for L.D. 925 this session, which was a comprehensive policy that enables prescribed treatment referred to as the Hub and Spoke, and its funding for availability to those in need. I do not expect it to be the end to all, but it warrants close attention as it rolls out in the coming year with a report back in early 2020.

Q.10 — Complete the following, “The reasons I am the best candidate for the job is…” I come to the position with background in civic engagement and experience in state and local government elected positions. I bring reliability, dependability, a thoughtful temperament and strong level of caring. I engage and learn about our state, our district and our state government’s sense of purpose to be able to connect the dots to help our district through that relativity. I thrive on bringing the people I represent to an awareness of that purpose of government with all of its intricacies and at times idiosyncrasies!

Anne Gass

Challenger: Anne Gass

Name: Anne Gass

Age: 59

Party: Independent

Family: Married, two children

Education: BA degree in Psychology, Reed College, Portland, Oregon; MA degree in Community Planning, University of Maryland

Occupation: Self-employed consultant

Organizations: Chairman, Gray Bike-Ped Committee; member, Maine Affordable Housing Coalition

Website: annegassfordist67.com

Q.1 — What qualities would you bring to the position? Extensive experience (30 years) as a volunteer on a variety of committees/activities in Gray, including comprehensive planning, school board, zoning board of appeals, economic development, land conservation, trail building, and bike and pedestrian safety and recreation planning. Also, extensive professional knowledge and experience working with nonprofits and local and state governments in Maine and nationally, on issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, education, corrections, etc. I have had my own successful consulting business for 25 years and have written over $160 million in successful federal grants, with most of that money coming to Maine.

Q.2 — How do you plan to contact/keep constituents up to date on issues? Through my legislative website and regular e-mails, also mailers sent to homes. I think it’s important to communicate what issues the legislature is working on, my role on key issues and how I voted.

Q.3 — How can the state strengthen education? Provide consistent funding at least at the level of the 55% voters have said they wanted the legislature to appropriate. Be wary of layering on additional requirements that cost schools to implement and take away from teaching and learning.

Q.4 — What can be done to increase economic development at the state and local levels? Remove the burden from businesses to provide healthcare to their employees. Strengthen an entrepreneurial culture that encourages people to start their own businesses and provides supports such as counseling, training and affordable loans. Continue investing in R&D in areas such as aquaculture and forest products, where Maine already has significant strength and resources. Strengthen and market community college programs that train people for jobs that fill critical needs, such as in the healthcare industry. Consider incentives to existing businesses to help them scale up.

Q.5 —  There is increasing concern regarding access to healthcare. What is your concern, and what can be done at the state level? We need to start by expanding Medicaid, as voters have said repeatedly that they want to see in Maine. The lack of access to affordable healthcare is harming Maine in so many ways. It gives young people and entrepreneurs yet another reason to move to another state where health care is more affordable. Worrying about and paying for healthcare is a big burden on businesses, and every year more employers opt out of providing health insurance or shift more of the cost to their employees. I’ve found tremendous dissatisfaction and worry among voters who are paying thousands of dollars each year for insurance, but who also have high deductibles they will never reach except in the event of a disaster such as an accident or a health care crisis. I’d like to see Maine move to a system in which primary healthcare is available to everyone through a public system, but families could opt to buy supplemental insurance that would cover more procedures and hospitalization. We’ll likely need the federal government to assist with this, however.

Q.6 — What is your position on Question 1 regarding the use of tax dollars to provide home care for seniors and the disabled? I’m sympathetic to the need to raise wages for home healthcare, but don’t feel comfortable that Q.1 is the best way to do it.

Q.7 — What is your position on Medicaid expansion? We should expand it. Maine people want this, it would bring significant income to the state, people would be healthier and some people will be able to return to work if their health needs are met.

Q.8 — What do you feel are the three main issues facing Maine today and what are your ideas/plans to address these issues if elected? Steadily aging population — invest in community colleges, job training and tuition reimbursement or debt relief programs to encourage young people to stay in or return to Maine.

Environmental risks due to climate change (such as more ticks and tick-borne diseases, ocean acidification, etc.) – promote use of alternative energies; create incentives and opportunities for people to bike or walk to work, or to work from home in order to reduce long commutes; participate in regional efforts to reduce our carbon footprints; and plan for climate change mitigation at the local and state level.

Lack of access to affordable broadband — this is an issue for families as well as businesses, especially in more rural areas. Promote use of innovative models for municipalities to own broadband infrastructure (like other utilities) and have ISPs compete to deliver the services over those networks.

Q.9 — With the number of deaths caused by drug overdoses continuing to rise in Maine, what do you feel can be done to address the opioid crisis? Expanding Medicaid, pressuring doctors to look at alternatives to opioid prescriptions for pain control, strengthening availability of treatment, and working with partners to create more sober homes to help maintain sobriety.

Q.10 — Complete the following, “The reasons I am the best candidate for the job is…” While this is my first time running for state-level office, I have significant volunteer and professional experience relevant to working on the local and statewide issues the legislature will be grappling with in the next session. I have a reputation for being a hard worker, who cares more about people and communities than parties and political power and running as an Independent will help maintain that focus. I also have a reputation for dealing with people respectfully and listening well, even when we approach issues very differently.

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