2015 State of the State Response

2014 Candidate for State Senate, Asher Platts, has the Maine Green Independent Party's response to Paul LePage's State of the State address:

RUSH TRANSCRIPT:

Hi there fellow Mainers, my Name is Asher Platts, I ran for State Senate in Portland Maine in 2012 and 2014.

We've heard a lot of talk tonight from both the Democrats and Republicans about what they're going to do to bring jobs to our state, increase prosperity, reduce taxes, and to generally improve the condition of working-class people living in Maine. But let's look at their past actions to find out where they really stand on the issues.

In 2005 the Democratic Party was in majority control and were taking the State of Maine in the wrong direction, favoring large businesses over workers, jobs, health, and the environment.

The Maine Democrats blocked an effort by Greens, Independents, and Progressives to enact single payer healthcare in Maine, which would have given all Mainers access to quality medical care for free-- and instead gave us instead the privately run Dirigo healthcare program.

This burdened taxpayers with the profits of a private health insurance company, making the program destined to fail, thus stunting any hope for achieving Single Payer healthcare in the State of Maine.

Because of the burden of profit, currently health insurance acts as a barrier rather than as a gateway to care.

While the Democrats and Republicans feel that we should keep the private insurance industry involved in our health insurance, the Green Party supports public policy based in facts.

It is clear from the numbers that a single payer healthcare system provides better coverage to more people for less money. It is also a clear moral imperative to provide access to health care to all Mainers, regardless of income.

The Maine Greens support a universal comprehensive single payer healthcare system that gives all Mainers access to the quality care they need. Single Payer will not cost us money, it will save us money. Back when the Maine Greens were working in coalition with independents and progressive Democrats, a study performed by an impartial accounting firm showed that after an initial investment we’d save money over the present system in just five years.

Single Payer Healthcare will free businesses from the burden of having to pay the insurance of their workers. It will free workers to seek fulfilling employment rather than being tied to jobs for health insurance. And without the burden of profit, advertising, and large CEO bonuses encountered in the private health insurance market, more money paid into the system goes to actual care, meaning we get better quality care for less money.

While Paul LePage’s likes to pretend that he is just a regular working-class Mainer, his proposed tax policies hit mostly low-income and working class people, all to pay for tax breaks to his rich friends.

But this isn’t new policy nor unique to the Republican Party. In 2009, the Maine Democrats voted nearly unanimously for a bill that would have reduced taxes for those in our top tax bracket, and raised them on low-income and working class families.

It would seem that when in control of the State Government, both Democrats and Republicans alike are interested in forcing low-income and working class people to shoulder additional tax burdens to pay for their giveaways to their wealthy friends and donors.

The Democrats have more recently become interested again in “tax fairness” but their tax plan did nothing to significantly alter our unfair tax bracketing structure. Their plan only tinkered around the margins of our three income tax brackets.

The Maine Greens, through our candidates for State Legislature, have been calling for a complete overhaul of our tax law that would restructure our tax brackets and create a truely progressive income tax. The Greens are committed to improving the condition of low-income and working class people, and would use any increased revenue to fund much needed social programs and economic development.

When under the budgetary control of the Democrats, the UMaine fund was used as a rainy day fund resulting in department consolidation and faculty cuts. Today, under shared leadership with the Republicans and Democrats, there is an effort to outright privatize the UMaine system, putting access to a high quality post-secondary education out of the reach of thousands of Mainers. Under either Democratic or Republican administrations, accessing post-secondary education still means accruing vast amounts of debt that may never be paid off in a lifetime.

The Green Party of the United States is clear in its platform about what sort of education Americans deserve. The Green Party views education as a life-long process, to which all people should have access.

The Maine Greens call for the creation of a permanent trust that can provide a high quality post-secondary education to all Mainers at the point of service for no cost to the student. College Education should be free for those willing to better themselves.

College education is not just a benefit to individual students, but an investment in the future of our society. The Maine Greens believe in community based economics, and rather than waiting on bended knee for out-of-state industry to move here, the Maine Greens would like to see all Mainers, through their education, be the ones to start new industries here in Maine. We would like Mainers, through the empowerment of education, be the ones to invent the new technologies, or provide high-skilled vital services-- in fields of health, urban design, economic planning. We want Mainers to be the ones, through their education, to have the big ideas that will move Maine forward into the next century. We must act now to empower the next generation of Mainers with the tools to take on the challenges of the future.

Both Democrats and Republicans claim to be the party of working-class people. But if we look at the facts, that is simply not the case. As much as LePage likes to pretend that he is just a regular working class Mainer, the LePage administration has severely exacerbated the condition of working class people.

Where before, unions were in decline due to barriers to organizing, unionized labor is now under attack by the private sector and the government alike.

Under Democrats, social safety nets were weakened to offset the cost of tax breaks to corporations. Now the social safety net is being cut to the point of ceasing to function.

Paul LePage has been actively cutting our social saftey net, or increasing barriers to access. Many of his methods have been found to be either extralegal, or unconstitutional. To defend his rogue actions, Paul LePage has requested two million dollars taxpayer money be set aside for his own private legal defense as part of his effort to deny working class people access to vital social services that can mean the difference between getting back on your feet, or living out on the street. The Greens Party would rather those two million dollars go to paying for the social services that will help keep Mainers in their homes and fed during this economic downturn, rather than wasted on the defense of the illegal pursuit of cuts of those very same services.

People are struggling to pay their bills, and cuts to vital services like medicare, food stamps, and general assistance are threats on the lives of working-class Mainers who wake up every day on the wrong side of capitalism. These policies are not only bad for the economy, they are violations of basic human rights enshrined in UN charter.

Recently, the LePage administration has declined the federal waiver to the Democratic Party's anti-worker President, Bill Clinton, reinstating his failed policy of “workfare” which forces those applying for food stamps to also either currently have employment, or to work for free.

By denying assistance to the unemployed, this backwards policy denies aid to working class Mainers when they need it most. But it's not just bad for the individuals denied assistance.

Forcing welfare recipients to accept jobs that pay wages below a living wage drives wages down for those who have good-paying jobs, and exploits workers for private profit at public expense. The Green Party rejects workfare as being a form of indentured servitude and corporate welfare.

While the Democratic Party may be against cutting social services, they are still a party of the ruling class, and as such their policies to address policy can at best be described as anemic.

If the minimum wage had kept pace with worker productivity and the rising cost of living, today it would be $22 an hour.

The Maine Greens believe that no one who works should have to live in poverty. It is for this reason that the Maine Greens support lifting Maine out of poverty by raising the wage floor across the entire state of Maine with a universal, enforceable minimum wage of $15 an hour.

For those unable to work, because of the failures of capitalism to provide meaningful work and livable wages, every day is an insurmountable struggle. The Green Party does not believe that poverty should be part of a civilized society.

The Green Party supports a basic income guarantee, that would eliminate poverty in one fell swoop by ensuring all Mainers have access to a regular monthly paycheck equal to 150% of the poverty level, thus stimulating the economy by putting purchasing power in the hands of those currently unable to participate in the economy.

Maine, along with the rest of the world, faces the twin challenges of climate change and economic collapse.

Both of these problems share a common solution, which is a Green New Deal jobs program that would put Mainers back to work building the infrastructure that we need to face the challenges of climate change: Renewable energy infrastructure that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels; active transportation such as bike and pedestrian highways linking our various urban centers; public transportation that makes the ownership of a car less necessary; and more. For the full text of the Green New Deal, go to MaineGreens.org

The Maine Greens are a fiscally responsible political party. We can eliminate spending on our prison system by decriminalizing all drugs, and legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Doing so would also legalize marijuana’s industrial cousin, hemp, which can put farmers back to work across the state.

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and since then has seen drug use plummet as the prices plummeted and it no longer became financially feasible to traffic in those formerly illicit substances.

If our goal is to decrease the use of drugs, increase public health and safety, and reduce spending, it's time that we end the failed drug war and treat drug addiction as the medical issue it is, instead of as a crime.

While people face steep prison sentences for transporting drugs across state lines, far more dangerous substances are allowed to be trafficked legally and freely by the oil industry.

The Governor is in the process of creating an East West highway, which will be used by large corporations to export our forests for processing in Canada, (where labor costs are lower because of the Canadian single payer healthcare system), and will also be used to transport tar sands from Canada through Maine for export, hauled in large tanks on the backs of large trucks.

Maine would not see any benefit from the transport of tar sands, but would be put at considerable economic and health risk. The Maine Greens are opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, and any pipeline carrying tar sands through Maine. The Lac Megantic explosion is just one example of what can happen when tar sands are transported by other methods such as truck, or rail.

Tar sands are a dangerous pollutant that if spilled are nearly impossible to clean up, and will devastate our waterways and soil, slowly killing Mainers and our wildlife with carcinogens. When burned tar sands push our climate closer and closer to the brink of no return. If that is not enough, when involved in accidents like the Lac Megantic explosion, Tar Sands can also be devastating to our physical well being in a much more immediate sense.

It is for all these reasons that the Maine Greens call for a ban on the transportation of Tar Sands through the state of Maine. Instead of deadly tar sands and costly foreign oil wars, we should focus on reducing toxic greenhouse gases by investing in energy efficiency upgrades to our antiquated housing stock which promises a better return on our investment. We can put forth a bond to create a revolving loan fund that will assist Maine homeowners in making energy efficient upgrades to their homes that will help them significantly cut their heating costs while at the same time doing our part to reduce the effects of man made climate change right here at home.

The Maine Republican Party, under the leadership of Paul LePage has continued to take Maine's government in that same wrong direction that the Democrats were taking us in, favoring corporations and the wealthy over working people, health, and the environment.

By 2010, Mainers were correct in their assessment that the Democratic Party, due to its ties with large corporations and the economic elite, was not a vehicle for enacting policy that benefits the public good. Mainers by and large chose to stay home on election day, with the lowest voter turnout since world war 2, resulting in the election of Paul LePage.

The low turnout on the left was mistaken by many in the media as being a shift to the right wing, rather than an abandonment of the Democratic Party in search of an alternative that works for the millions, not the millionaires.

The Maine Green Independent Party is such a choice. We are a new party, only 30 years old, free from the stranglehold of entrenched interests, with a strong commitment to issues that affect poor and working people, because our membership and leadership is made up of poor and working class people, just like the people watching this at home right now.

The Maine Green Independent Party is no longer going to sit on the sidelines and let both Democrats and Republicans diminish the quality of life and opportunity for Mainers.

In 2018, we plan to run a candidate for governor to challenge these parties, both of which have proven that they are only concerned with representing the interests of the wealthy.

We need your help. If we don't join together to challenge the failed policies of both Democrats and Republicans, we will continue getting the same results.

Join us now in building a sustainable movement to take back our government. Contact us at the phone number or email listed on the screen for more information on how you can get involved with the Maine Green Independent Party in your town, or go to MaineGreens.org for more information.

Thank You.

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