GRAY — The two candidates in state House District 45 squared off again Oct. 15 in a candidates forum that covered issues including taxes and how to keep young workers in Maine.
Democrat Dale Denno and Republican Mike Timmons are running in the redrawn district that includes Cumberland and a southern section of Gray. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland.
Timmons, who has been Cumberland Fairgrounds president for six years, retired two years ago after 47 years in education, which included time as a school principal, assistant superintendent, special education director and teacher.
He also spent five years on the Windham Town Council, including a year as its chairman, and served on the town’s Board of Assessment Review. Gov. Paul LePage appointed him last year to the Maine Harness Racing Commission, a position he will have to relinquish if elected to the House.
Denno spent 1991-1997 on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors, and was its chairman in 1995-1996.
He retired in December 2013 from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, where he was director of the Office for Family Independence. Denno worked directly with the Legislature for more than two years in that capacity.
“The driving passion for my run for this office is is my concern about the loss of jobs in Maine, and the export of our youth,” Denno told last week’s audience. “Maine has become the oldest state in the union, not because of our older people, but because of the loss of our younger people.”
Maine has been unable to create jobs that take the place of the industries that sustained the state 30 years ago, he noted, referring to healthy textile, shoe and paper industries.
“We need to stop the hemorrhaging of our youth from this state, and in order to do that we need to create a vibrant economy,” Denno said. “… The overriding issue of this generation is to transform the Maine economy so as to make it a place where people can not just have life as it should be, but actually have an income, so that they can live in this place.”
Timmons said the university system is a key means of addressing the problem.
“I believe that our economy, our youth, and the future of Maine and keeping our students, starts with what we do with in Augusta in supporting the university,” he said. “… I believe that Augusta needs to pay close attention to what happens at the university, because the university, the economy, and keeping our Maine students here in Maine, is critical.
“I’ve heard it for 45 years,” Timmons added. “Now I am in a spot where I can be a voice.”
Timmons pledged that “if we’re going to take up issues that are going to have serious impact on people’s taxes, I’m going to come back … and discuss those issues before I will support (those issues). And there are some very serious ones as far as health care, and welfare, and the university.”
Denno said that in the past four years, an increasing tax burden has been pushed onto those least able to afford it, noting how revenue sharing and the circuit breaker program have been cut.
“Through increases in property tax we’re pushing elder people out of their homes,” he said. “We’ve decreased income taxes for the highest levels; that income tax cut that we keep hearing about … is almost entirely geared to the wealthy. If you make under $100,000 a year, you’re getting the crumbs of that cut.”
The candidates participated in a previous forum in Cumberland on Oct. 7. Election Day is Nov. 4.