BRUNSWICK — Robert E. Thompson, a Republican, is challenging first-term incumbent Rep. Peter S. Kent, D-Woolwich, in House District 65.
District 65 includes parts of Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, West Bath and Woolwich.
Peter S. Kent
Kent, 59, lives with his wife Megan Evens at 182 Montsweag Road, Woolwich. They have two school-age children. Kent has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Acadia University and attended a construction sciences program at Laney College.
Kent is a sculptor in wood and stone. His workshop is at Fort Andross, where he works on commissions and other building and design projects. Previously, Kent for 30 years owned a small building and contracting business that specialized in making furniture.
He served on the 124th Legislature’s agriculture, conservation and forestry committees.
Kent said the issues are obvious: jobs and job security, the economy, education funding, and heath coverage.
He said partisan politics and gridlock in the Statehouse are derailing efforts at any meaningful change. “There’s simply too much blame and finger-pointing,” Kent said. “We have got to lay aside our political difficulties and work collaboratively together.”
He said the first objective needs to be a clearer focus on the direction the state wants to move.
“Everyone knows what the problems are; what’s needed is a comprehensive plan in state government for addressing them over the next five, 10, 15, 20 years, and then focusing our efforts towards achieving those goals and objectives,” Kent said.
He said the last session struck him as being two years of “dissembling” rather than building, and he feels better planning could have avoided the dilemma caused by the loss of stimulus monies used for education.
“People have likened it to “falling off a cliff,” he said.
He said state-mandated school consolidation helped realize some savings, but more is needed. Kent said he doubts the next Legislature will propose any new taxes as a means of restoring lost stimulus funds. He cited the recently repealed beverage tax as an example of voter backlash to taxes.
Kent added the education funding formula, which is based on property values and not per capital incomes, makes no sense. He said it’s especially unfair to coastal communities he represents that have large amounts of waterfront properties, which drive up valuations and result in less funding.
He said less help from the state hits middle and lower income families the hardest. “It needs addressing,” Kent said.
Robert E. Thompson
Thompson, 66, lives on Adams Road with his wife Donna. He has two grown daughters. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran and taught high school students for 29 years. This is his second campaign for a House seat; he was defeated in 1984.
Thompson said he’s appalled at the performance of the 125th Legislature. The state’s financial situation, he said, is largely the result of the Legislature’s inability to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities.
“The state mandates educational requirements and promises to provide funding up to 55 percent, but then doesn’t do it so, the town’s are left with raising property taxes,” he said. “It’s their mandates, and their responsibility to come up with their share of funding. If the money is not there, they need to make the necessary cuts in Augusta from other programs to see that it is.”
He said the Legislature has failed to repay hospitals for MaineCare patients, contributing to higher medical bills for everyone. “The state owes over $300 million in unpaid MaineCare reimbursements to hospitals,” he said, “including Mid Coast Hospital and Parkview Hospitals in Brunswick.
“Some of this debt goes back several years, but the state refuses to acknowledge their liability for this debt.” Because of this, Thompson added, hospitals are faced with cutting staff or raising rates.
“I would support a bill that states, if the state fails to live up to its financial obligations of any mandated program, then all state mandates are voided until they do meet their financial obligation(s),” he said.
Thompson said bond issues to fund programs or projects aren’t the answer since borrowing creates more “unfunded liability,” now in the neighborhood of $14 billion.
Thompson said it’s absurd to think that one state representative can solve these problems alone, but a representative has a responsibility to be at the Statehouse when these debates and discussions are taking place.
“My opponent missed 16 percent of all roll call votes; one out of every six days,” he said. “If you miss that many days of work in the private sector, you’d lose your job.”