Senator Libby Mitchell, Democratic Candidate for Governor addressed the Club , sharing her views on the issues facing the State of Maine.
The following is a reprint of an article that appeared in the Morning Sentinel on Tuesday, August 10, 2010.

Ready to 'bring people together'

By Rebekah Metzler

MaineToday Media State House Writer

WATERVILLE -- Increase the number of college graduates, make health care more affordable and reduce rates on income and capital gains.

That's what Libby Mitchell, Maine Senate President and Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said are the keys to reviving Maine's economy during a Monday meeting with the Waterville Rotary Club on Monday.

Mitchell, who spoke for about 20 minutes before taking questions from the audience, told approximately 30 people in attendance she could "bring people together" to address the problems facing the state.

"I am running to create opportunity not only for (my children) but for future generations, and also to make sure that we keep jobs for all of us; and for those people who are afraid of losing them, to bring a sense of security to the jobs they do have," she said.

The Waterville Rotary Club is hosting lunch meetings with three of the five gubernatorial candidates. Republican nominee and Waterville Mayor Paul LePage is scheduled Aug. 23; independent candidate Eliot Cutler, of Cape Elizabeth, is expected Aug. 30.

Mitchell's speech focused largely on Maine's economy. She reiterated her support for recommendations made in "Making Maine Work," a report drafted by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Foundation.

"We know we need 40,000 more people with education beyond high school in the next 10 years," Mitchell said, referencing the report. "I am told that there are 4,000 qualified young Maine people, or old Maine people, that are waiting to get into the community colleges. They offer programs that fit the needs of the business community and, if we can get these people through the doors, we can make sure that they are ready for the workplace."

But accommodating more students costs money, Mitchell said. So she suggested one possibility for additional funding would be to renegotiate the state liquor contract.

The state privatized its wholesale liquor business in 2004, selecting a Massachusetts company to run it and subcontracting with Pine State Trading Co. of Augusta for warehousing and delivery in a 10-year, $125 million contract.

"Maybe it's time for us to redo that contract a little early, take the monies from that and put it into a trust fund and use that money for higher education to train our young people and older people for the Maine work force," she said.

Acknowledging health care costs are too high for many Maine small businesses, Mitchell said she would work to increase wellness programs.

"There's not a person in this room that does not know that prevention is a lot cheaper than treating sickness," she said. "So why not do what we know is right and what is better for people? And the work force is more productive anyway."

During the question-and-answer period, Mitchell indicated she would revisit the idea of reducing Maine's income tax rate.

Lawmakers enacted such a tax reform law in 2009, but it was repealed by voters last June.

The law reduced the income tax rate for most Mainers from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent. The law, which was revenue neutral, was paid for by increasing the meals-and-lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent and expanding the state's 5 percent sales tax to a wider array of items.

"We must go back to lowering the income tax," she said. "We're outliers."

Mitchell also said income taxes should be reduced to benefit small businesses, many of which pay their taxes as individuals. That includes reducing the tax on capital gains.

"If we want businesses to grow and expand, we need to do that," she said.

But she said that since voters made clear they found at least parts of the sales tax expansion unacceptable, any new proposal would have to be fully offset.

"What is it that they would find acceptable? And maybe we have to (expand the sales tax) incrementally," Mitchell said.

"The other option is to cut other programs. But I can't tell you the number of people that say, 'Don't cut revenue sharing, don't cut aid to the schools, don't cut health care, don't cut business tax incentives.' So it's a community conversation. There's no right answer. It's what we want as a people."

Doug Carnrick, of Winslow, who posed the income tax question, said Mitchell answered honestly.

"Something needs to be done," he said, "so at least she said she would still look to reduce it."

Rebekah Metzler -- 620-7016

After Senator Mitchell's presentation, Seth honored her with a certificate noting that 10 children will receive polio vaccinations in his name as a token of appreciation and with the thanks and best wishes of the Club.