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SCARBOROUGH — In a match-up of two serving legislators, two-term state Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, is challenging incumbent first-term Sen. Jim Boyle, D-Gorham, in Senate District 30.
Formerly Senate District 6, the new district includes Gorham, Buxton and most of Scarborough.
Boyle is 56 and lives on Dundee Road in Gorham with his partner, Sue Durst. He has two grown children.
He is an environmental scientist who owns his own environmental consulting firm, and is a partner in a real estate company.
Boyle is Senate chairman of the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, and sits on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee; he was formerly a forester.
He said he sees himself as a political moderate, in part because his mother and father offered polar opposite political opinions while he was growing up.
Second to his work helping constituents, Boyle said he is most proud of his work with his Republican colleagues on environmental issues, specifically LD 1744, an act that would have protected Maine lakes by offering a new monitoring program.
“There’s a tipping point, where if degradation moves right up to it, even if you make drastic changes, you can’t bring it fully back,” Boyle said. “I’m concerned we’re approaching that.”
Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the bill and the Senate narrowly failed to override, but Boyle said he was proud to have advocated for the bill and to have worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle.
“I was seen as a mediator who would listen to Republicans,” he said.
Boyle said he also hopes to continue to lead the state Senate in legislation to protect consumers from toxic chemicals, by requiring manufacturers to label products containing toxins.
He said he also hopes to improve the state’s solid waste disposal rate, recycling and composting.
Boyle said much of his constituent concerns stem from rising local taxes, which informed his vote earlier this year to reinstate more municipal revenues.
Despite being a business owner, Boyle said he doesn’t want to see for-profit charter schools, such as Maine Connections Academy, handling public education.
“As a business owner, I’m all for profit, but I do not support for-profit schools. I’m for online education, but I do not support virtual charter schools.”
He also takes issue with the school’s funding structure.
“Where I get concerned, is where we propose to take $6,000 to $7,000 per student from public education and send it to for-profit companies, paid for by taxpayer dollars,” he explained. If elected, he said he would support legislation to change the formula in the next session.
Because Scarborough residents are so evenly split on the issue of gaming, specifically at Scarborough Downs, Boyle said he purposely tries to remain neutral on whether to allow more slot machines or casinos in the state.
He said he looks forward to learning more about the potential for gaming, and if the state were to see new legislation this session, he would want to see higher revenues earmarked for municipalities.
Boyle voted for indefinite postponement of gaming legislation in the last session, but said he has since had conversations with senators from districts with casinos whose fears of increased crime have not been realized.
On the issue of immigration reform and providing general assistance to undocumented individuals, Boyle said he believes “if people are breaking the law, they should be prosecuted, and taxpayers should not be supporting them.”
He said he also believes the state should be firmer on welfare abuse, and suggested the state should appoint an inspector to scout welfare abusers.
Equally as importantly, Boyle said, is “we need to put aside (welfare reform) as a campaign issue (along with) demonizing the poor.”
Boyle said he believes the state minimum wage should increase, but from a business owner’s perspective, he wants further study on the impact of an increase before determining how high it should go.
Boyle believes his record and experience as an entrepreneur help make him suited to continue working for District 30.
“I bring perspective as a small business owner to the way I interact with legislators,” he said. “I listen to all of them, and treat them with respect.”
Volk is vacating her seat in House District 29 (formerly District 127) to challenge Boyle.
The Elbridge Oliver Way resident is 45, and has four children ranging from ages 10 to 23. She is married to Derek Volk, of Volk Packaging Corp. in Biddeford.
Volk is secretary of the Root Cellar in Portland, president of Maine Connections Academy, a member of the Scarborough Cheering Club, a member of Scarborough Softball Boosters, and a member of a worship team at the Rock Church in Scarborough.
Volk sits on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Development Committee, where she is lead minority member. She has also served on the governor’s State Workforce Investment Board, and was a founding member of the bipartisan “Gang of 11” tax reform group.
Volk said her most notable accomplishments are her contribution to overhauling workers compensation law and her bill to better protect victims of sex trafficking, which was passed unanimously as emergency legislation last spring.
“It brought a lot of attention to the issue, and they’re using it. Police find it’s a useful tool to help victims,” Volk said. “It’s been really gratifying.”
Volk said she wants to move to the Senate not only because representing more people would make her a more effective legislator, but also because she feels the Senate needs more women.
“I think women in general tend to be bridge builders,” she said. “This gives women a bigger voice.”
Volk believes revenue sharing between the state and municipalities should exist to offset property taxes, not be incorporated into municipal budgets. The solution, she said, lies in a smaller state budget, and increased sharing of services between neighboring municipalities to cut down on costs.
“People have come to expect a level of services, but don’t like the idea of having to pay for them,” she said. “I think we have to make a choice at some point.”
Volk said she is still committed to finding a way to lower the state income tax, despite the failure of the tax reform group’s proposals to gain traction.
Volk was the lead sponsor in the House on the successful charter school bill this session, and – not surprisingly – is a strong advocate for Maine’s first virtual school, the Maine Connections Academy, which opened this fall.
“Not all children learn the same way,” Volk said. “I think we ask a lot of our local public schools and they just can’t meet the needs of some children.”
She said she would be in favor of improving the funding formula for the schools, and making payment methods “less cumbersome.”
Volk said she also stands behind the LePage administration’s welfare reform efforts. She supports identification on EBT cards, and proof of work search or school enrollment for the able-bodied who seek welfare.
Although she supports LePage’s decision to cut off general assistance aid to undocumented immigrants on the grounds that the state must follow federal law, Volk said she wishes the law would change at the federal level to support those individuals, who are often asylum-seekers and legally unable to work.
She said municipalities could continue to support these individuals with funds from local property taxes, and the state should support undocumented individuals who could help stimulate Maine’s economy.
“Maine demographics are scary in terms of an aging population,” Volk said.”In my experience, (asylum-seekers) have kids who are graduating and going to college; they’re working their tails off.”
Volk also said she would consider supporting gaming legislation that would allow slot machines at Scarborough Downs, “if it were centered around the horse-racing industry, and if it were acceptable to Scarborough voters.”
Volk said she does not support increasing the state minimum wage, because it “puts Maine at a disadvantage.”
Although she said she supports consumer education, Volk said she would not support legislation that requires manufacturers to label all products containing toxic chemicals, notably phallates, because if materials aren’t sourced in-state, “it just becomes very difficult to do business here.”
She said she believes the issue should be addressed at the national level.
Volk said she believes her record of getting things done and finding common ground in the House will carry over into the Senate.
“I feel like I’m pretty moderate, other than the fact that I’m pro-life,” Volk said. “I vote for what makes sense, and I’m almost always happy to meet in the middle.”
Election day is Nov. 4.
Corrected Sept. 25, 2014, to reflect that Boyle does not support the use of for-profit charter schools.