Political Profile: Trey Stewart
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -<Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8:What are your top three priorities if elected, in the coming legislative session?
Trey Stewart, Republican, Maine State Senate District 2: I’m currently the ranking member on the energies, utilities and technology committee, if Republicans take back the majority I’d be in line to be a chair there. And first and foremost we have to get our energy costs under control. We have pushed a lot of really bad policies out of Augusta that have resulted in rate increases, like the one folks just saw in their mailboxes. The notice to increase rates, yet again, and it’s purely for the benefit of special interest groups, like the solar lobby. So, we have to change that trajectory that we’re on as a state and get that under control. Second, mental health has to be a priority of the next legislature. It’s certainly a priority for me. We have to address the problems that were created during the pandemic regarding mental health and worsened frankly with the opioid crisis. And the only way we’re going to do that is if the state steps up and takes a more active roll in that regard, including providing resources specifically for rural Maine. And then finally, we have to get our spending under control, over all. We’ve spent so much money in the last couple of years under the guise of pandemic and covid and relief and what it’s really resulting in is that we have set up a really bad scenario in the future. So, we have to get our spending under control in the state.
Jason Parent, The Aroostook Partnership: What are your thoughts on population growth, or perhaps other strategies, to address our qualified employee shortages here in the region?
Trey Stewart, Republican, Maine State Senate District 2: This is an issue that’s really important to me, it’s something I’ve worked on in the legislature and have had success on. One of the things that we did was create a workforce recruiter position. It’s one that needs to be filled as soon as possible, but the idea is that the state needs to go out and compete with other states for a workforce. It used to be that we were competing for jobs and companies to relocate to Maine, but now we’re competing for people and that human capitol. And so we desperately have to get better at that. And frankly we need to expand that program. We also can do a better job of incentivizing people to come here. I think there are different types of tax incentives we can provide folks. And again, it’s about competing, right. When states compete, people win and right now Maine isn’t competitive, but we can be, we should be and that’s something I’m going to be pushing for in the next legislature.
Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8: Ok, you have about 2 and a half minutes left for your third question, which is Aroostook County’s workforce participation rate which 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?
Trey Stewart, Republican, Maine State Senate District 2: Well, I won’t mince any words here, the handouts because of covid need to stop, right. We’re no longer in a state of emergency. A lot of these programs that have made it so that the government is the primary competition with the private sector has just been killing our labor force. So, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing those numbers continue to uptick even now. So, we have to change that trend. But second of all, it goes back to what I said a minute ago, we have to recruit, we have to do better as a state. We had a problem with workforce participation, particularly in the County, even before covid happened and so this isn’t a new thing. But it is one that now, more than ever, time is of the essence and the consequences of it will be real. You know, what keeps me up at night, as a law maker, is the nightmare scenario where we lose a hospital or a nursing home, simply because we don’t have a staff. Meanwhile, half of the possible workforce is just sitting at home doing nothing. So, we have to get better at training these folks, get them into the pipeline, particularly in the health care sector, so that when folks do reach retirement age and are in their golden years, we will be able to provide services for them and I look forward to continuing to work on those efforts and in partnering with both the University system and the community college system, so as a state and making that pipeline more robust and getting folks off the couch, right. We’ve got to get folks back into doing something productive here.>
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