UnionMaine

Trust me, I work for the Government

Chellie Pingree Has a plan and is ready to do the job.

Chellie Pingree, candidate for congress in the first congressional district asked for questions from readers and sent in some very interesting answers. When judging candidates remember, that no Republicans have responded to invitations. Read more about her candidacy at http://www.chelliepingree.org/ In another interview Chellie said …communicating, lobbying, fundraising and engaging the public in policy and politics is far more exciting and inexpensive via the internet.

EDITOR: This site asked if the candidate would answer questions. Chellie’s campaign did not ask for a list of questions first. She is willing to stand by her beliefs.

1. Social Security Offset: State employees that have contributed to the Social Security system are punished by the Social Security offset. As a member of congress, will you work to repeal this unjust law? What will you do?

Yes, I am a fervent advocate of repealing the Government Pension Offset (GPO) of the Social Security Act. I supported repairing this broken system when I ran for federal office in 2002, and I continue to hold this position today. Maine is one of a handful of states impacted by this provision, and in Congress I would work with Members of Congress from the other 14 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas) to make sure this is corrected for the people who are penalized. I would support legislation to repeal the offset, but it is likely that the best opportunity to address the offset will be in the context of larger social security reform, and I would be strong advocate for making this important change at that time.


2. Describe what you would do to improve the Department Of Labor and how you would make it friendlier to labor. Will you support a card check law on the Federal level? Would you support and enforce prevailing wage across the country?

The first thing that needs to happen is that the Secretary of Labor needs to be someone who understands the needs and rights of workers. With every federal agency, the Bush Administration has put foxes in charge of the henhouse. I would advocate that the next president (a Democrat, if we all work hard!) chooses a Secretary who truly stands up for all U.S. workers. The Department of Labor needs to stand up for workers – not the interest of big corporations. That includes understanding the need for the Employee Free Choice Act, strengthening OSHA requirements, and guaranteeing workers a living wage.

During the Bush Administration, the DOL has been more vigilant about enforcing regulations against Unions then against businesses in violation of labor laws. I think the next Secretary will need to refocus their enforcement efforts. I am also very concerned about the NLRB and the decisions that have been made by it. I think that it is critical that future appointments to this board believe in the purpose of the NLRA if they are going to be making decisions that will be critical to American workers. I recommend the “Eye on the NLRB” site on http://www.americanrightsatwork.org

Finally, yes, I support check card legislation and would support and enforce nationwide prevailing wage. I hope that, with a new administration and bigger margins in Congress, this will be only a beginning.

3. Unions believe in the right of workers to organize and to bargain collectively. Will you work with Unions to extend and return collective bargaining rights to (ALL) Federal workers that have been denied bargaining rights?
Absolutely. I am proud of my long record of supporting labor rights, particularly in the Maine Legislature (as has been described on this site), and in Congress I would continue this work to improve wages and workers’ rights, and ensure a fair playing field for labor unions.

4. What are other major issues upon which your campaign is based?
The election of 2008 will be the most important of our lifetime — our country faces so many important decisions and we need to undo so much of the damage done by the Bush administration and a congress that didn’t always stand up in opposition when it should. The war in Iraq needs to be ended immediately (as I discuss in the next answer). We need bold reform of our national health care system that ensures all Americans have access to high quality medical care, and I support HR 676 — a universal single-payer health care plan. I also believe that we need to address global climate change and our dependence on foreign oil with bold measures that support conservation, renewable energy, and new technology development — in this country.

Lastly, I believe that much of the debate in this election year will be focused on solving the increasing economic problems that many Americans are facing. The policies of the current administration have only served to increase the growing gap between the rich and the poor through misguided tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich, along with a near-war on labor unions and on working people’s rights, and ever declining funding for education, and lack of support for small businesses and investment in the critical infrastructure. We have a lot to do to turn this around, and Democrats have not always been the leaders they need to be.


5. What is your position on the war in Iraq and how soon it can be ended?

We must end the war now. Congress must stop funding the war and rescind its authorization if the administration refuses to make plans for immediate withdrawal. We can’t continue to squander our resources on the worst foreign policy mistake in our country’s history. Leaving will be complicated, but staying only continues the tragic loss of our soldiers, Iraqi citizens, and almost unthinkable amounts of money.

I also believe that while Congress and the President debate whether we can “win” the war instead of how best to withdraw our forces form Iraq with the least amount of damage, they are irresponsibly prolonging this disaster. Instead, they should be tackling the hard debate of what needs to be done next.


6. On the second amendment, do you believe your views are consistent with the majority of Mainers? Do you believe the second amendment is an individual right or a collective right? Do you see the need for more gun laws or do you believe we should enforce the laws we have?

I recognize the historical and cultural importance of gun ownership and hunting in Maine, and think I am similar to many people in Maine when I say that, but also when I say that I am concerned about personal safety, being safe in one’s own home, and domestic violence.


Do you support the assault weapons ban? Registering all weapons?

Like many others Democrats and Republicans, I would support reinstating the assault weapons ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004. I would need to review the particular legislation about registering all weapons before making any decision on that front.

7. Would you vote to allow undocumented workers to collect Social Security?
Under current law, Social Security is not available to people working in the U.S. illegally and this makes sense to me. We all know that our immigration system in broken, and Washington hasn’t done anything to fix it – this will be an important topic for our federal government to address in the coming years. I support reforming our immigration laws by focusing first on securing our borders, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and allowing undocumented people here now to get right with the law by paying back taxes and a fine, and getting to the back of the line. People who became legal citizens would then be eligible to participate in Social Security


8. What is your position on Bush tax cuts?

I am not sure I can say it any better than John Edwards does, “Our tax code is the perfect example of the Two Americas – one for the wealthiest Americans and Washington insiders, and the other for everyone else.” There is a lot that needs to be done — starting with a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the highest income Americans and raising the tax rate on capital gains. Alternatively, our tax cuts should be focused on areas that will help working families – with credits that support access to higher education, child care costs and tax policies that do not punish wage earners.

9. What role does the Federal Government have in helping to alleviate the health care crisis in this country?
This is the job of the federal government. I support HR 676 — and several other good proposals that are out there. I believe that if the Democrats increase their numbers in the House and Senate and we manage to elect a Democrat to the White House and we don’t start from day one working to enact a system of universal affordable health care for everyone in this country, then we won’t deserve to govern and the voters will never have faith in us again.

This is not an issue of a lack of good proposals or ideas — it is about political will. It requires Congress to have the backbone to stand up to the many special interests who descend on Washington to fight reform. I learned how to win these kinds of fights when we took on Pharma to pass Maine Rx when I was the Senate Majority Leader — and I plan to make sure my colleagues do the same in Congress.

10. What are the most important things Mainers need to know about you that will help us to decide how to vote?

Given the challenging times in our country, perhaps most importantly the voters need to feel confident that I am not afraid to fight — from standing up to big Pharma to fight for lower prescription costs to fighting for some of the toughest corporate accountability laws in our country when I was the majority leader of the Maine Senate. And, I believe in telling the truth — even when it isn’t politically convenient — like being willing to oppose the invasion in Iraq when I ran for the US Senate in 2002 when many people in Washington told me to keep quiet. I want to serve in Congress not because I want to have the title, but because I believe that there is so much that needs to be done and not enough people fighting for change.

I have lived in Maine nearly all my life — raised my three children (my daughter Hannah is now the majority leader of the Maine House of Representatives), served in local office like the school board, and I still run my own small business. I know what it is to meet a payroll and pay the health care costs of our employees. I am firmly rooted in my hometown and Maine values.

I brought those values to Washington during the four years I was the national president of Common Cause. There I lobbied the leaders of Congress like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid. I’ve had tough conversations with them about the need for ethics reform in the House and Senate, and I’ve worked with some of them to craft important reform legislation, such as Senator Durbin’s bill for “Clean Elections” for Congress. I have traveled to conflict-ridden countries such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Israel, and seen how challenging it is to create solutions in those circumstances. I would “hit the ground running,” and be a powerful force for the people of Maine from the day I was elected.

11. What can you do to help Maine if you are elected? Our current (R) representatives have been ineffective in getting LIHEAP money, increasing the road weight limits, or anything else a congressional representative is supposed to do to help their state.

There is so much talk about “security” in our country today and, while there is much that needs to be done to make our country more secure, I would like to take back the money that is being spent everyday on the misguided war in Iraq and invest it in states like ours. I don’t want to see another bridge collapse like the one in Minnesota or watch the nearly criminal lack of response to the hurricane in New Orleans by our federal government. We need to invest heavily in the infrastructure of our country if we want Americans to feel secure — and we need to invest in such things as roads, public transportation, broadband access and public facilities like schools and working piers if we want the economy of states like Maine to thrive.

You are right, people in Maine are struggling through a hard winter and oil prices that have gone through the roof. There is no justification in not providing LIHEAP money just as there is no excuse for not fully funding the other needs of our aging population (Maine is the oldest state in nation) like home-based health care and long term care as well as assistance to our veterans (of all ages). Our state is struggling financially and the legislature is preparing to make very painful cuts — with much of that problem fueled by federal funding shortfalls in areas like Medicaid and education. Local governments and school boards would also be far better off financially if we fully funded special education mandates and Community Development Block Grants.

The list is endless! I would be a tireless fighter both to make sure that Maine gets the support we need and to make sure that congress sets the priorities that will help states like Maine — not spend our precious tax dollars on tax cuts for the very rich and an unacceptable war.

12. Do you have a position on the legalization of marijuana research and the legalization for medical purposes?
Marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes. As a State Senator, I co-sponsored successful legislation (L.D. 2580) that created a volunteer registry for eligible patients and designated caregivers under the Maine Medical Marijuana Act of 1998. The legislation also created a distribution system to secure marijuana from the Department of Public Safety, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

13. This next question comes from Helen Hanson, president of the new MSEA-SEIU Union Local 771
What does she think about cutting Medicare benefits that cover the cost of home health care for our elders? This is a program that pays for the health services an elder receives in their home. Like having a nurse go into the home to do a routine check up or having a physical therapist go into the home to do some physical therapy to help keep the person mobile. Is it better to put these people in a nursing home where those costs are high, the care is not that great? Not to mention that the elders would rather stay in their own homes and be comfortable. The work I do is not covered under Medicare. Home Care for Maine does not receive any Medicare money. HCM does not employ nurses that go into the home for these types of services. But a lot of the consumers that Home Care for Maine helps do receive these types of services from other agencies like Health Reach.
Thanks for your question, Helen. I’ve met with some home health care staff in recent months and have become more and more familiar with this issue. It would be helpful to talk with you about this more, but my thinking is that Medicare absolutely should cover the cost of home health care and that these cuts are unconscionable. From many perspectives –- the cost of the coverage, the physical and emotional wellbeing of the patients, the fair compensation of the providers – it simply makes good sense. As the baby boomers age, this will become an increasingly critical issue. The people I’ve talked to have also been concerned about the Medicare cuts, the lack of adequate cost-of-living-increases in reimbursement rates, and the problems around enforcement standards that seem to penalize some efficient and well-run outfits just because some bad ones exist elsewhere in the country.

I have been supportive of the efforts to unionize this important workforce and applaud you and MSEA for your work on this front. I believe that the government, though health care policy, should work to help make it possible for the elderly or infirm elder to remain in their homes. Government should and must be in the business of increasing people’s quality of life, not diminishing it.

I have to give the answers an A-. Chellie has a solid grasp on the economy and who has been hurt by the last eight years. She understands health care on a National level and she is for the rights of Unions. I would have given a better grade except both candidates that have sent in answers gave answers regarding gun ownership that I can not support. I am afraid that this could be a make or break issue to many of the citizens of Maine. I ask that both candidates do more research. Chellie has proven by her answers that she is not parroting the party line, that she has Maine’s interests at heart. Our current ( R ) representation has failed in so many ways and following George Bush has only led to Maine being marginalized, our attempts at clean air being denied by an administration that does not care if our children choke on Midwest coal dust and smog.

Answers and Respect for Maine’s Citizens

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January 13th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Politics | no comments

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