1. Do you agree with our President, and 75% of Maine voters, that millionaires and billionaires should pay at least as much in taxes as their secretaries?
Policies that date to the Bush administration, including the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, are responsible for 40 percent of the growth of the budget deficit since 2001, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Along with unfunded wars and the deregulation of Wall Street, these cuts have stunted critical investment in schools, homeland security, infrastructure and health care, with more than 46 million Americans still uninsured.
The U.S. Senate defeated a jobs bill in October 2011 that included a surcharge on taxpayers who earn more than $1 million in adjusted gross income. The bill would have provided $140 billion for infrastructure investment, helped states keep teachers and first responders on the job, extended federal unemployment insurance for another year and prohibited discrimination against the long-term unemployed.
According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, only 0.1% of Maine taxpayers would have been affected by the surcharge — about 375 people. On the other hand, the bill would have created 2 million new jobs nationally and cut taxes for virtually every Maine taxpayer.
I will change the vote of Maine’s current senatorial delegation and vote to approve the president’s jobs bill.
Then, in April, the Senate turned aside the so-called Buffett Rule, a tax plan proposed by the president that would apply a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on individuals making more than $1 million a year.
The rule implements a higher minimum tax rate for taxpayers in the highest income bracket, to ensure that they do not pay a lower percentage of income in taxes than less-affluent Americans. It would affect 0.3 percent of taxpayers.
I will support the Buffett Rule, to bring the super-rich in line with rates paid by average taxpayers.
We can slash spending, as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want; or we can ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share to help preserve our country’s fraying social fabric.
At a time of such striking domestic needs and huge deficits caused by unfunded wars, loopholes for corporations and the deregulation of Wall Street, we cannot afford more handouts to the wealthiest Americans who least need them.
2. Income inequality in the U.S. is greater now than at any time since the Great Depression. In your view, how does income inequality affect the economy?
>> Average CEO pay is now a staggering 343 times that of frontline workers. The nation’s wealthiest 1 percent control more of the country’s net worth than they ever have. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average U.S. income, when adjusted for inflation, declined 1% between 1988 and 2008, while Americans making $380,000 or more saw their incomes grow 33%.
Because two-thirds of our economy is predicated on consumer spending, we need a middle class with disposable income to buy cars, improve their homes, save for college and purchase goods and services. We create a downward spiral if working families do not earn enough to support themselves or the merchants in their communities who create jobs.
Because we know unionized workers earn higher wages than nonunionized ones, one of the best ways to increase middle-class wages is to enhance workers’ ability to unionize.
As opposed to my opponents, I have cast votes against barring independent child care providers and farm workers from unionizing or bargaining; in favor of raising Maine’s minimum hourly wage to $7.75 and then $8 (Republicans defeated the measure); and against letting minors work longer while in school, at 30 percent lower wage than the legal minimum.
I am the leading pro-worker candidate in this race, evidenced by the fact that The AFL-CIO gave me a 100% rating in its most recent legislative review.
3. What specifically have you done here in Maine, or elsewhere, to restore tax fairness? What will you do if elected as Maine’s next U.S. Senator?
>> I actively worked to support real tax reform in the Maine Legislature, advocated for the Main Street Fairness Act, and am the only candidate in the race who advocates eliminating income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that benefit only 2% of our population.
I voted against a measure — rejected four times by state voters — that flattened state income taxes, with 75% of the benefit to the top 20% of taxpayers and middle-class families forced to make up a $600 million annual shortfall. The “reform” passed, creating a hole in the state budget Republicans are trying to fill with cuts to needed programs.
I support the Main Street Fairness Act, and worked at the state level to have Maine join the Streamlined Sales and Use Compact. This combination of federal and state legislation would streamline the collection of sales tax on Internet sales so independent Maine businesses are not at a price disadvantage against online merchants.
4. How would you use the new revenue raised by restoring tax fairness?
>> We must pay down deficits, refurbish crumbling infrastructure, fund research and development that create next-generation tech jobs, protect the cherished Maine environment that propels our best-in-the-nation tourism industry, and take care of our seniors and veterans who have sacrificed for this country.
In particular, we should address fundamental weakness in the housing sector with a mass mortgage refinance program to reduce payments, which would act as a huge middle class tax cut; rebuild American highways and make our air space safe by passing a robustly funded Surface Transportation Act; and restore manufacturing by preventing currency manipulation, closing tax loopholes that encourage the offshoring of good jobs, and rejecting job killing trade deals.
Here is my five-point jobs plan:
Keep American jobs at home: Reward American jobs, not outsourcing
Congress needs to pass legislation to attract and keep good jobs in the United States by rewarding companies who bring jobs back to America with lower taxes. We pay for it by eliminating tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas.
• American manufacturers have added more than 400,000 total jobs in the last two years—the strongest growth since the late 1990s— and their continued strength is vital to creating an economy that makes things the rest of the world buys.
Expand refinancing for responsible homeowners
Pass legislation to cut red tape so hard working, responsible homeowners who are paying their mortgage can refinance at today’s low interest rates.
Part of the basic American promise is that if you work hard and act responsibly, home ownership should be an achievable dream. While government can’t fix the housing crisis alone, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to wait for the market to hit bottom to get some relief and get back on their feet.
Invest in tax credits for small-business jobs
Pass legislation to help hard working small business owners create jobs by giving them a tax credit for new hires and tax relief for investments they make.
• Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and create two out of every three new jobs in America. They spur economic development in communities across our country and give millions of families and individuals the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
Invest in clean energy manufacturing
Pass legislation to invest in American clean energy manufacturers who create American jobs through innovative new technologies and fuels that reduce our reliance on foreign oil and lead to more secure energy sources.
• Our dependence on foreign oil has long endangered our economy and national security, sending billions of dollars overseas. We need to take control of our own energy future by out-innovating and outbuilding our global competitors.
Create a veterans jobs corps
Pass legislation to honor our commitment to returning veterans by creating a Veterans Job Corps to help Afghanistan and Iraq veterans get jobs as cops, firefighters, and serving their communities.
• No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas.