Political Profile Mark Babin
AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - Our Political Profile series we are doing with the Aroostook Partnership, we are focusing on Maine State House District 3 between Incumbent Democrat David McCrea and challenger Republican Mark Babin. Again, each candidate had 5 minutes to answer the same three questions. The questions were provided ahead of time and the interviews were all done through Zoom. Here is Republican Mark Babin.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: What are your top three priorities if elected, in the coming legislative session?
Mark Babin, Republican Maine State House District 3: Well, my first priority would be to be diligent at monitoring and gaging the spending in our state. Trying to fight at cutting the wasteful spending will be something I’m working on. That wasteful spending that has put demands on tax payers. No matter what kind of amount of spending is done it will eventually fall back on us, so we have to do a better job and I will work to do a better job of listening to the people of Maine, the people of our county, in other words, being connected to all of Maine. My second priority is connected to the first one and that is to lower taxes, which sounds like a promise that every politician makes, but again, listening to the people of our county, listening to the people of Maine, you’ll hear the same complaint. We’re being taxed to death, we’re being taxed beyond our means and we’ve got to look at the reasons as to why the increase in taxes and we know that there are programs and things that we need to cover. We need to take into consideration the people, the businesses, the economy and work together on a state level in order to fix some of these major issues. My third priority, again, is certainly not my last one, but looking at the small businesses in Aroostook County and Maine. And of course, they’ve struggled in the past, but they’ve struggle more since Covid. We’ve seen a decline in the work force, we’ve seen an increase in the cost of goods, 30 and 40% increase. We’ve seen a shortage of things that are needed in order to run a successful business and again there are many ways to help local businesses in Maine and I’ll try to find ways to help in order to prevent some of these things.
Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8: And you have about 3 minutes left for your next two questions. The second question is, what are your thoughts on population growth, or perhaps other strategies, to address our qualified employee shortages in the region?
Mark Babin, Republican Maine State House District 3: Looking for qualified employees and again, looking at whats happening in our region, if you look back in 2018, Maine was still riding on a low time, record of low unemployment that lasted for quite a long period of time. At it’s peak in 2016, Maine’s average annual rate was ranked 11th among the states, but during the pandemic it fell to 23rd. And of course it remained there until June of this past year. And so, there are reasons for that. And instead of dropping bonuses that rewards people for not working during a state wide labor shortage, Maine announced the back to work plan which paid 1500 dollars bonuses to those that leave the unemployment and go hold a job for at least 8 weeks. The problem is that by staying on unemployment, that same individual can earn an extra 2400 dollars in federal bonuses over that same period of time. So, in Maine, only approximately 400 people participated in that plan, but then at the same time over a thousand Mainer’s filed unemployment claims during that same period. So, again, taxing people that are working to pay for people who are not is not a good policy for any state, including Maine, so my personal feelings again that the failed state policies have limited the recovery of businesses and the increase in the workforce.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: So, you have about a minute and a half for the last question and the last question is, Aroostook County’s workforce participation rate continues to decline and is currently at 54% for residents 16 and older. What do you feel the barriers are to increasing this important metric and what are your ideas to reverse this trend?
Mark Babin, Republican Maine State House District 3: Well, the declining population and the loss of younger people in Aroostook County specially and all over the state has created a shortage of workers in key positions, vital positions, law enforcement, medical, ambulance services, retail stores, restaurants, big box stores and businesses have had to shut down because of no staff or no employees and nobody to help run like it used to be. And so in Maine, the high unemployment benefits at the state level, national levels are to blame for what we’re seeing along side our roads right now, all the signs, now hiring. A lot of signs in windows or businesses, now hiring, sign on bonuses and trying to encourage people to join the work force again. There is a shortage of population, but at the same time there are people, especially in our county that we know of that could go back to work and need to go back to work. So, as I mentioned a few moments ago, unemployment benefits to well able bodied individuals, who could be a part of our workforce have made a negative impact upon our work force, so again, we need to do a better job of screening and helping those who need the help in order to get back in the workforce and to find employment and I think we can do that and hopefully if I’m elected we’ll be able to work on those things.
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