Erin Herbig, D-Belfast: I am a proud fifth generation resident of Waldo County and I’m dedicated to making working and living in Maine easier for students, families and our seniors.
I first ran for office because I saw too many people leaving Maine for better jobs out of state because they couldn’t find work they needed to be able to stay here and raise a family. I am now about to complete my eighth year as a legislator, having consistently fought for long lasting investments in Maine’s rural communities and workers.
I am currently the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives and have been the Chair of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, the Chair of and Legislature’s Workforce Development Committee and Chair the Aging Caucus which champions legislation to help Maine’s seniors.
Before serving in the Legislature, I worked as Outreach Director for Maine Farmland Trust and as a graphic designer for Moss, Inc. I graduated from Belfast Area High School and earned a running scholarship to Boston College, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Maine today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
- A trained workforce. From my Waldo County Works Business Tour and from visiting people in their homes, I hear how employers are looking for employees, but we don’t have the training programs available in Waldo County to prepare people for these jobs. I will continue to increase training in Waldo County for the jobs that are right here in our area. I’ll also continue to champion incentives such as tax credits for commuting expenses, making childcare easier to find, reducing student debt, and supporting family caregivers.
- High property taxes. Rising property taxes are a direct result of the state failing to fully fund education and meet its revenue sharing obligations. We shouldn’t be raising property taxes while giving multi million dollar out of state corporations tax breaks. That just does not make sense to me. Returning tax dollars to our people will ensure that young families can buy homes in Waldo County, and seniors can stay in their homes as they age.
- Access to high speed internet. Our businesses are at a disadvantage, and our students are left sitting in a car at night by the library or their local school because that’s the only place they can get internet access. I’ve already been working on this issue and it will continue to be one of my top priorities.
How will you protect the local (municipal) taxpayer as you help shape a state budget?
When the state does not contribute its share to our local communities through local revenue sharing, or adequately fund schools, municipalities across the state are forced to make up for those funds by raising property taxes. We took many good steps forward during this legislature to relieve some of that burden but my highest priority for the next state budget would be to ensure education and revenue sharing funded by the state as is required by the law. These two things would make a great difference to all towns and cities in Maine and lessen the burden on local municipal tax payers.
Scientists have reported that the Gulf of Maine is warming (Gulf of Maine experiences marine heat wave, scientists say: penbaypilot.com/article/gulf-maine-experiences-marine-heat-wave-scientists-say/106929) and Senators Collins, King push for research into warming of Gulf of Maine, penbaypilot.com/article/senators-collins-king-push-research-warming-gulf-maine/101228.
How will you work to ensure that Maine’s fisheries are vital and productive, and that the habitat and marine life are protected?
The health of Maine fisheries, habitat and marine life is vital to our state, both in economic terms and for our quality of life. There is more we can all be doing to address these issues, but it will take a collaborative effort of government, industry and Maine citizens to address the warming Gulf of Maine and protect our valuable resources. I’ve worked across the aisle for eight years in the Maine House, and know how to bring people together to tackle tough issues.
What are your positions on energy policies and use of renewable energy (solar, wind, tidal turbine)? Should the state of Maine encourage renewables with tax and policy development?
Diversification is a key component to any healthy economic plan. Renewable energy diversifies our energy demands. The more energy options we have, the lower our energy costs will be. Mainer’s have always been independent and our energy policy should be no different. I will move forward with new energy policy that provides more focus on all types of renewable energy sources, and we should encourage the expansion of these technologies through tax and policy development. These industries are already providing good jobs for Maine workers, our Maine universities are training workers in these industries and we are attracting young families to Maine in renewable industry technologies.
How do you want to see Maine laws governing the commercial growth and sale of marijuana to evolve?
Maine voters made it clear they wanted legalize marijuana in our state, but there is still work to be done to ensure it is a safe and regulated market. This past year stakeholders from every constituency participated in a public process to help build the initial framework for our system. I am confident a system can be put in place that allows for the growth of this industry while protecting public health and safety.
What issues are emerging from your conversations with the public as you go about your campaign, and what solutions do you envision?
Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for District Attorney, Maine Senate and Legislature, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the state. The candidates have responded with their individual written answers.
The top issues I hear from voters are mentioned above: a trained workforce, access to high speed internet and lowering property taxes. Young people looking for good paying jobs close to home and businesses are looking for people with the right skills. We need more local training in Waldo County, in fields like electrical, plumbing, and composites (such as for boat building). I’m also continuing the work I started this year to bring more educational opportunities to Waldo County in conjunction with our Community College system, local employers through apprenticeships, and our technical and career educational programs. I also hear about the problems people are having getting access to high speed internet. This isn’t just a convenience issue - this has real consequences for our economy. Just like roads and bridges high speed internet infrastructure is a critical part of moving Maine’s economy forward. I will make sure everyone in Waldo County has access to high speed internet. So many voters have also seen their property taxes go up and up the past few years. I will keep fighting for the state to meet its revenue sharing obligations and education funding commitments to lower property taxes.
Voters approved expansion of Medicaid. How do you want to see that implemented and funded?
I respect the will of the voters. The legislature put forward a bipartisan proposal to fully fund that implementation this year. The next administration will need to fulfill its responsibility to the people of Maine and make expansion happen. Medicaid expansion will most help our rural hospitals by bringing federal healthcare dollars back to Maine to provide reimbursement for charity care, creating new jobs in health care and providing more treatment for the opioid crisis.
What is your position on the proposed 145-mile Central Maine Power transmission line that the company hopes to build from Quebec, through Beattie Township, and the expansion of 92 miles of existing corridor to Lewiston, and another 26.5 miles from Windsor to Wiscasset?
I’ve heard a lot of concerns from my constituents about this project. I would need more information, especially in terms of environmental and community impact throughout the proposed corridor before I would be able to support it.
Two young Maine children were killed under horrific circumstances in 2017. How would you improve the caliber of DHHS, specifically child protective services?
One of the fundamental functions of government is to protect people who are not able to protect themselves. The current system failed these two children. The legislature has taken some initial steps to address these terrible tragedies but we need to expand the number of staff who are working directly with families and children so that they have a manageable caseload. We also must provide better training, compensation and career growth for these individuals. This is extremely challenging work, and people who undertake it must be given the resources and support they need.
What committees would you like to serve on and why?
After listening to the people of Waldo County as I’ve been visiting their homes and businesses, I believe the areas where I can most directly address the everyday needs of folks in Waldo County would be on the Transportation committee and the Inland Fish and Wildlife committee. I also hope to continue to serve on the Workforce Task Force, particularly with an emphasis on jobs in the trades, as this is some of the most important work we can do now to ensure families and young people can stay and prosper in Waldo County as well as expand our tax base.
Maine’s economy relies on small and micro-businesses. How will you help the entrepreneur succeed in this state?
I’ve spent the last ten months touring every corner of Waldo County, visiting more than 100 businesses to learn more about all of the great businesses we have. I have been so impressed with the dedication, hard work, and pride that everyone in Waldo County has for what they do. The biggest challenges I heard from businesspeople were access to high speed internet, healthcare (both access and cost), and finding employees with the skills they need for their particular industry. As I’ve mentioned, I support smart state investments to expand high speed internet and provide job training that fits workers’ and employers’ needs.
Does Maine have enough mental health care resources? If not, what needs to improve and how?
No, we do not. Providers are doing the best they can to care for as many people as possible under dire financial circumstances. Unfortunately, people with untreated mental illness don’t get the attention they need until they end up in either our hospital emergency rooms our courtrooms. Preventive care is the key. The state has not done enough to support providers and programs that deliver preventative services.
What is your vision for affordable health care?
My vision is that every Mainer will have access to high quality, affordable health care close to home. Currently, too many of our major life decisions revolve around health insurance: Can I take that new job? Am I ready to start a family? When can I retire? And business owners have to ask themselves, can I afford to hire a new person to help grow my business, and what if my employee gets sick? The high cost of health insurance is a drag on our local economy, and a drag on Waldo County families. Most healthcare policy is set at the federal level, but we can do a better job leveraging federal resources, to strengthen our healthcare system and support businesses to offer affordable health insurance.
Maine has built up a fiscal surplus. How should it be used?
- Education, including technical education in our trades. There is no better investment for our future.
- We need to fully meet the state’s obligations for local revenue sharing to reduce property tax burdens felt across the state.
- Smart investments in high speed internet access in rural areas.
What are your positions on the following November ballot questions?
- Question 1: “Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income, funded by a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018?"
- While I certainly support providing more support for Maine’s seniors and Mainers with disabilities, I do not support the funding mechanism outlined in this referendum.
- Question 2: “Do you favor a $30,000,000 bond issue to improve water quality, support the planning and construction of wastewater treatment facilities and assist homeowners whose homes are served by substandard or malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems?”
- In favor
- Question 3: “Do you favor a $106,000,000 bond issue, including $101,000,000 for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities and equipment related to ports, piers, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and $5,000,000 for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?”
- In favor
- Question 4: “Do you favor a $49,000,000 bond issue to be matched by at least $49,000,000 in private and public funds to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine's public universities in order to expand workforce development capacity and to attract and retain students to strengthen Maine's economy and future workforce?”
- In favor
- Question 5: “Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to improve educational programs by upgrading facilities at all 7 of Maine's community colleges in order to provide Maine people with access to high-skill, low-cost technical and career education?”
- In favor
Please feel free to expand or add any thoughts here that we have not touched upon.
I am so proud to be from Waldo County. I was lucky enough to grow up within five miles of my grandparents, who were poultry farmers and the owners of the Herbig Shell Station in downtown Belfast. My parents taught me how important family is, and how to work hard to achieve the life you want. But I also saw them struggle through a changing economy. By visiting thousands of homes and over 100 businesses all over Waldo County this year, I’ve heard from people facing similar challenges. I want Waldo County to achieve the potential we all know it has, with better jobs and better opportunities that grow our economy and give people a path to success right here at home. I’m committed to working with anyone who shares that goal. I focus on the people of my district, and I work harder for them than anyone else. I’d love to have your support on November 6 to be your State Senator.