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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 11, 2012
Candidates for House 36 seat talk education, employment

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As part of the ongoing Election 2012 coverage, Penobscot Bay Press is publishing excerpts from a questionnaire sent to candidates in local Maine House and Senate races.

Walter Kumiega III is the incumbent Democrat who has served two years as Representative. A self-employed carpenter, Kumiega and his family have lived in Deer Isle for 18 years.

Kim Strauss is the Republican challenger for the seat. He and his wife Charlene live in Bass Harbor. Strauss owns a boatyard, runs nature cruises with his son Eli and captains a ferry boat to Frenchboro, Long Island.

What should education look like in the state of Maine moving forward? What specific changes, if any, need to be made to the way education is structured or funded?

Walter Kumiega: Pre-K to 12 (or beyond) public education is the foundation of our economy. Schools need to be more innovative to engage and educate all students so they are prepared to succeed in whatever post secondary option they choose. If public schools step up and make the changes needed to serve students better, the debate over charter schools will be over. Charter schools will never solve the problem. All students deserve a great school, not just those that get into a charter or can afford private.

Last session the Legislature passed a law calling for another study of our funding formula, known as EPS. I hope that will lead to changes that treat small rural schools fairly.

Maine’s state colleges need to take a hard look at why it costs so much to get a degree. Like medical costs, college has far outpaced inflation and no one can explain why. State support is critical to keep tuition costs down, but our schools need to do their part.

Kim Strauss (chose to answer this question and the following question together in one answer): As an example, my youngest son graduated from University of Maine with two engineering degrees, then got a masters in engineering from the same school, but couldn’t find a job in Maine. He now works for a company in New Hampshire. I am not knowledgeable enough at this point to draw a picture of what an improved educational system would look like, but if there are no jobs for our young people, we are going to a lot of expense to create a better work force for New Hampshire. Often the enemy of job creation is red tape and over regulation. Simple solutions could open opportunities. For instance, how much would it cost to add  “crab and lobster” to a crab picking license? Right now that will cost you an additional $600. Let’s just make it free. This isn’t by itself going to solve the glut of lobsters in early summer, or the lack of jobs in coastal Maine, but it would help and it wouldn’t cost a dime.

Maine’s unemployment rate remains over 7.5 percent. If elected, what would you do to encourage economic growth, particularly for small businesses?

Walter Kumiega: I think new and existing businesses should be treated equally. I would not want to tilt the field for a startup at the expense of a going concern. That said, I support funding organizations like Coastal Enterprises and Women Work and communities that provide business planning services. Efficiency Maine’s energy cost reduction program can be a big help. And I am considering resubmitting a bond bill to establish a fund to help seafood processing and marketing ventures, possibly expanding it to include other maritime industries such as boatbuilding and marine construction. Land for Maine’s Future’s Working Waterfront program also helps shore-side businesses reduce costs and raise capital to reinvest in their operation and should be funded through a new bond.

Kim Strauss: See above.

Walter Kumiega

Walter Kumiega.

Photo by Jessica Brophy
Kim Strauss

Kim Strauss.