SOUTH PORTLAND — Incumbent Democratic Rep. Terry Morrison is seeking re-election in House District 122 against Republican Howard Reed Farr Jr.
District 122 covers the east end of South Portland.
The candidates differ on the cause of the state’s budget shortfalls.
Farr believes the state is spending too much and, if elected, said he would target fraud and abuse of welfare, including prohibiting smokers from receiving food stamps.
Morrison said the state is not overspending; it’s just not generating enough revenue, because wages are low compared to other states.
Morrison supports gay marriage and would consider a local option sales tax. Farr opposes both.
Howard Reed Farr Jr.
Farr, 76 grew up in South Portland, where he and his wife have five grown children, 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
The Mussey Street resident retired from Data General in 1990, where he was a quality control engineer. Since then, he has sold insurance and worked as a self-described “grunt” in the seafood industry.
Farr said he volunteers two days a week for Meals on Wheels, every other week at Portland’s Root Cellar and cooks two nights a month at Portland’s Preble Street Soup Kitchen.
He said he is running for office because he believes Maine has become a welfare state and needs to control spending.
“I’m kind of fed up with the politics that have been going on in Maine,” he said.
Farr said he would look to welfare for savings, by calling for a review of the way the Department of Health and Human Services evaluates applicants. Handicapped and disabled people need benefits, he said, but new residents shouldn’t automatically qualify.
Farr said smokers should not be allowed to receive food stamps and that DHHS should test applicants before approving benefits. He suggested swabbing applicant’s mouths for tobacco residue.
“I really don’t think that anyone who spends $7 on a pack of cigarettes needs food stamps,” he said. “I just believe there is a lot of falsification of information (by welfare recipients).”
Health-care costs for small businesses are “astronomically high,” Farr said, as are out-of-pocket health expenses. He said he supports allowing employers to pool their resources to get reduced rates.
Farr said tax incentives are needed to attract new businesses to the state, which he said is “geographically handicapped.”
The community college system needs to update its offerings, cutting “antiquated” programs in favor modernized curriculum, like bio-technology and wind energy, he said.
While unable to provide specifics, Farr said the state budget needs to be scrutinized for waste. The new governor will need strong support to make big changes, he said.
“There are many, many issues to look into,” he said.
Terry K. Morrison
Morrison, 39, lives on B Street and has been a resident of South Portland for seven years. He is completing his first term in the Legislature.
Morrison, the general manager of the Inn at St. John in Portland, said he is seeking re-election because of the unfinished business of tax reform, expanding energy efficiency initiatives and implementing new federal health-care reforms.
As a member of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, Morrison said federal health-care reform is “fabulous,” but is disappointed the effort fell short of implementing a single-payer system.
“I’m a strong believer that health care is a right, not a privilege,” he said.
Morrison said the state’s budget shortfall is not a case of overspending, but a lack of state revenue brought about by relatively low wages.
“I don’t think we’re overtaxed in this state,” Morrison said. “It’s my opinion we make less.”
Morrison said the state could increase revenues through better marketing, not tax increases. He would consider a local-option sales tax to help municipalities, but does not consider it a good solution.
Morrison supported the Legislature’s last attempt at tax reform, which would have lowered income taxes for top earners and expanded the sales tax. He believes it was repealed by voters because they didn’t understand it.
“It wasn’t explained very well,” he said.”We’re desperate for tax reform, but the magic bullet hasn’t been fired yet.”
In the past, he said, the Legislature has balanced its budget by cutting funding returned to municipalities in the form of education aid, revenue sharing, the Homestead Exemptions and Circuit Breaker Program.
Morrison said municipalities should do everything they can to not raise property taxes to make up for the decrease in state funding.
“If we have to cut our budgets, the city should do the same and not automatically flip it into property taxes,” he said.
Although not convinced the state is overspending, Morrison said he believes efficiencies could be found by streamlining some services, especially by combining departments and merging some of the many agriculture commissions that exist.
He said he believes the income tax base could be expanded by “reasonable” investments in research and development, especially in the bio-technology field, that are “mindful” of the current economy. That investment could create jobs and keep college graduates in the state, he said.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or email@example.com
Edited Oct. 15 to correct background information about Howard Reed Farr Jr.
Mussey Street resident Howard Reed Farr Jr. is the Republican candidate for the state House District 122 seat, which represents the east end of South Portland.
Incumbent Democratic state Rep. Terry K. Morrison, of B Street, is seeking re-election to the state House District 122 seat, which represents the east end of South Portland.