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PORTLAND — Opposite views abound in the state House District 42 election, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Peter Stuckey is challenged by Republican Marc Lamontagne.
“I’m tired of hearing we can’t do things because we don’t have any money,” said Stuckey, 67, who is seeking a fourth term.
Stuckey, of 20 Vaill St., and Lamontagne, 62, of 922 Baxter Blvd., are running in a new district based on U.S. Census data from 2010. The district includes much of the Deering areas, north and west of Back Cove.
Stuckey, who coaches ice hockey at Portland High School, also directed programs at the Children’s Nature & Science Center, East End Children’s Workshop and the People’s Regional Opportunity Program.
Lamontagne owns and manages real estate and manages commercial real estate for others. He is a long-time umpire for the Bayside Little League and has been involved with school parent-teacher organizations. He ran unsuccessfully in House District 114 in 2004.
“I’m in a very good spot in my life, and I thought I’d be the best person to run against (Stuckey),” Lamontagne said.
Stuckey said he would continue to fight for issues he has championed since first being elected, including increased aid for social programs and tax reform.
“I think there is a good deal of money in Maine, we just don’t collect the right amounts from the right people” he said.
Stuckey said he supports expanding MaineCare services through federal funding offered as part of the Affordable Care Act, but emphasized it should be a first step to creating a single-payer health-care system in the state.
He also said he wants to reverse a current state Department of Health and Human Services policy prohibiting state reimbursement to municipalities for general assistance aid given to undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t know where to begin on what level on why it is a bad idea,” he said. “At best it is ill-informed and bad policy, at worst it is flat-out racist.”
Stuckey added the policy indicates a wider disregard for what asylum-seekers have to offer a changing Maine economy once they are assimilated.
“You don’t get out of a country where your life is in danger without at least having chutzpah,” he said.
Now a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, Stuckey said he would also be interested in serving on the Taxation Committee and reforming the state income tax structure to include more income levels and increased rates for wealthier earners.
Stuckey advocates restoration of the “circuit breaker” program, which refunds property taxes for eligible homeowners. Eligibility in the program was tightened, and the benefit reduced, during the last legislative session.
At the same time, he said he would like more thorough annual legislative review of tax credits and exemptions to see if they live up to what was expected of them.
Stuckey said he supports the legalization of marijuana.
“I’m a child of the ’60s. I understand that I don’t understand the nature of drug in the 21st century,” he said. “But we spend so much money, time and resources trying to control something that so many people seem to want in their lives and I think we could use those resources that could improve the quality of our society.”
Critical of the approaches taken in higher education in the state university, Stuckey said he would only support more funding when he is sure there is more clarity about the system’s purpose.
“We’d design a better system if we started with a better perspective about students,” he said. “We tend to come at it from the point of business and economic drivers. That is important, but in a healthy system, there is that good liberal arts wing and trades application. The whole system needs to be designed so students can pass back and forth between it.”
“I respect what (Stuckey) does, but my policies are completely different. I am a very conservative person,” Lamontagne said of his campaign to reduce spending and regulations, and his perception that society has become too reliant on government.
Born in Sanford, Lamontagne moved to Portland to attend the University of Southern Maine and has been in real estate and property management for almost 40 years.
“You come from a chicken farm, you know what work is,” he said. “You should not be teaching people how to get a free check. You should be working.”
Lamontagne said he opposes expansion of MaineCare with federal funding and remains wary of all federal programs that seem better than advertised.
“There is no free money from the feds,” he said. “I am adamant about not taking federal money with strings attached.”
He said he would consider an increase of the state minimum wage from the current $7.50 per hour, but said economic growth starts with individuals.
“If you don’t like working for the company, if you have good skills, you should get another job,” he said. “(An increase) has to be reasonable, you cannot bury businesses.”
Lamontagne said he supports decriminalization of marijuana, but not full legalization.
“I don’t want to open this Pandora’s box. I don’t want it to be a free-for-all,” he said.
Lamontagne’s views on taxation are completely opposite Stuckey’s. He said he supports reducing business taxes and regulation, and said municipal budget problems may not be as much rooted in reductions of state aid as in an inability to tighten belts.
“You have to be careful with certain cities going back to the state and hoping it will take care of its expanding needs,” he said.
But Lamontagne said he would consider changing the state tax structure to allow local-option taxes.
“It should be up to the municipalities to see if they want to roll the dice,” he said.
Lamontagne said leadership with better business acumen could help resolve the financial problems at USM.
“I think they have woken up to the fact they have to live within their budgets,” he said.
He advocated eliminating less popular and more expensive programs, and said the university should also consider charging more for popular programs to reflect a more market-based approach.
Lamontagne said he is also worried the demands for special education and English language instruction are making it more difficult to fully serve mainstream students in city public schools.
“It is a gigantic issue, but we can’t have our heads in the sand and say throw more money at it,” he said.
Understanding and setting limits on the scope of government is at the core of Lamontagne’s candidacy.
“I am an individual that can say no,” he said. “Personal responsibility is a big thing.”
Maine House District 42