The candidates for Maine House District 53 discuss training young people in the trades and balancing the state’s budget in a forum set to air at 8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 5.
State Rep. Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, and Jeff Pierce, R-Dresden, are running to represent Arrowsic, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Woolwich, and part of Richmond.
Hepler is seeking her second consecutive term in the Legislature. She said that in her first term, some of her best ideas for bills were brought to her by constituents, and she hopes to continue representing her district’s needs.
Hepler believes that in order to get work done in the Statehouse, legislators have to work in a bipartisan manner. She does not support the use of attack ads.
“I have no interest in the negative ads,” she said. “I talk to anybody who calls. I don’t ask, whether I’m helping them through unemployment, or food stamps, or a business loan, I never ask what party they are. I think what we can do is demonstrate that we can work together.”
Pierce feels the same way. “As a legislator, you work for everybody,” he said. “I was viciously attacked the last election cycle, and I didn’t appreciate it at all. I don’t hold a grudge, because small people do small things, but we have to get along.”
Pierce, a building contractor who previously served in the Legislature from 2014-2018, hopes to use common sense and budget experience if elected.
“As somebody who’s looked at budgets, there’s hard choices to make. There’s no way around it,” Pierce said. He highlighted tax credits for solar power as a program that could be cut, saying they are typically used by people with high incomes, so the program doesn’t benefit everybody.
“I know it’s not a lot of money, but you’re going to have to take a lot of little programs like that,” he said. “Right now, we’re not funding elderly housing, so are you going to take 10% from them? The answer’s no.”
Both candidates support more training to bring young people into trade jobs.
Hepler cited the Jobs for Maine Graduates program, which helps middle and high school students graduate and find careers. “Some of them will go on to other schools, some of them will go on to two-year trade schools, some of them are going to be in tech schools,” Hepler said.
“As somebody who teaches at college, there are some people who are in college who would be much better served by doing a two-year training program in the trades,” she said. “We need it. This is an aging population.”
Pierce advocated for increasing funding to high school vocational programs and providing skills training to seventh and eighth graders.
“If you have a skilled labor force, you reduce your taxes and bring more revenue in,” Pierce said.
The forum will air on LCTV and at lctv.org.