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4/23/2014 2:00:00 PM
Michaud Talks Bipartisanship in Interview
Maine 2nd Congressional District Rep. Mike Michaud speaks to members of the Boothbay Region Health and Wellness Foundation's Elder Empowerment Committee at the Boothbay town office April 14. The Democratic candidate for governor said he is
Maine 2nd Congressional District Rep. Mike Michaud speaks to members of the Boothbay Region Health and Wellness Foundation's Elder Empowerment Committee at the Boothbay town office April 14. The Democratic candidate for governor said he is "the only candidate" in the race with a history of successfully working with Republicans and Democrats. (J.W. Oliver photo)
By J.W. Oliver

Democratic candidate for governor Mike Michaud says he is the only candidate in the race with a record of successfully working with Republicans and Democrats.

Michaud talked about his bipartisan accomplishments, his ideas for education and health care, and his support for offshore wind power during an interview with The Lincoln County News at Boothbay Center Café April 14.

Michaud was the president of the Maine Senate in 2001, when the chamber was evenly split, with 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one independent.

"A lot of people thought that was going to be a nightmare," Michaud said, because the absence of a single senator could place the other party in the majority.

The Senate was able to overcome those grim expectations, however, and Michaud claims some credit for their bipartisan accomplishments.

Every morning, he would meet with the Democratic and Republican committee chairmen in his office to review the legislative calendar.

The informal meetings "built up trust and opened lines of communication, and that's what's missing today in Augusta," Michaud said.

Michaud also works across the aisle in Congress. As the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, he works with Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., to accomplish the committee's goals.

"We're probably one of the most productive committees in Congress," Michaud said. Miller was recently in Maine to attend the christening of the USS Zumwalt at Bath Iron works and tour the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.

Michaud and Miller "get along very well" because they focus on how to solve problems instead of how to make the other's party look bad, Michaud said.

"I'm the only candidate" for governor with "a proven track record of being able to work across the aisle," Michaud said.

Michaud talked about what he would like to accomplish as governor, including investments in education.

A statewide vote in 2004 requires the state to fund 55 percent of the cost of public education. A decade later, the state continues to fall well short of this threshold.

Michaud's goal is to fulfill the state's obligation. Education is an "economic tool" and "an investment in our future, and if we're going to grow here in Maine, we have to make sure we provide adequate resources for education," he said.

He supports investment in early childhood education and public pre-kindergarten and would like to work with private partners to expand those programs. Studies show early childhood education improves outcomes and reduces rates of incarceration, he said.

He plans to ask major philanthropists like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to invest for a five-year period. The five years will allow the state to gather the statistics "to prove it will be effective," Michaud said.

A more stable state government would also help public schools. "Any time the funding stream is unstable makes a huge problem, particularly for school districts that have their budgets already set," Michaud said.

Michaud hopes to bring long-term stability to the budget process with an amendment to the Maine Constitution to require governors and legislatures to pay for the programs and tax cuts they enact.

"If any future governor or Legislature wants to do huge tax cuts or huge spending programs, then fine, pay for them," Michaud said. "Don't leave it for someone else to make that decision, because that's where the instability in the budget process comes into play."

Michaud called himself "a strong supporter of offshore wind."

The capacity to generate electricity off the coast of Maine "equates to 40 nuclear power plants," Michaud said. "My biggest concern is, I want that power to be for Maine."

The Maine Aqua Ventus I project, a proposal to install a pair of floating wind turbines in state waters south of Monhegan, has met steadfast opposition from some area residents.

Opponents of the project in Bristol, Monhegan and elsewhere cite the potential negative impact of the project on the lobster and shrimp fisheries and the turbines' impact on scenic ocean views among a long list of grievances.

Michaud has advocated for federal grant money for the project, but said he is "not that familiar" with all the specifics of the project and its location.

The project stands out because "everything is made in America," Michaud said. The other five projects in competition for two $47 million grants from the U.S. Department of Energy would all purchase steel or other components outside the country.

The project could create good, environmentally friendly jobs in the state and turn into "something I think Maine could be very proud of," Michaud said.

A central issue of the gubernatorial race has been whether to expand MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program, with federal funds from the Affordable Care Act.

Michaud and independent candidate Elliot Cutler want to expand the program, which provides health insurance for low-income residents. LePage has vetoed efforts to expand the program, a move he opposes as unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible.

One bill would have expanded MaineCare for three years, Michaud said. The federal government would reimburse 100 percent of the cost and the Legislature would decide in three years whether to continue the program when the reimbursement rate starts to drop.

The state could also set conditions for the expansion, Michaud said. For example, the state could agree to expand Medicaid as long as the federal government pays at least 90 percent.

MaineCare expansion is "the morally right thing to do" and "the fiscally responsible thing to do," Michaud said. The move would "save Maine over $600 million" and inject $348 million into Maine hospitals over 10 years.

"It's a win-win for Maine," Michaud said.

A March 31 to April 5 poll by Pan Atlantic SMS Group gives LePage a narrow lead in the race, with 38.6 percent support to 37.3 percent for Michaud and 20.3 percent for Cutler. The results fall within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error.

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