Media Archive

Jones and Richardson vie to represent Piscataquis people

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 41, October 13, 2004

By Suzanne AuClair
Special to the Observer

Taxes access business climate top concerns in District 27 race

GREENVILLE The people of Piscataquis County will have a choice Nov. 2 to elect Sharon Libby Jones or Earl Richardson to represent them in the Maine House of Representatives next term. The twice-elected Jones, a Democrat from Greenville, goes up against the also twice-elected and current Republican incumbent Richardson, also from Greenville, for the District 27 seat.

In what promises to be a close race, one of the differences between the two candidates is in how they look at getting business done. Both say they do not support the Palesky Tax Cap. Both say they support more economic development. Both do not support the bear referendum which, if passed, would make it a felony in the state of Maine to hunt bear with bait, traps or dogs. Both believe management is best when left in the hands of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and its working committees.

Richardson said he is running again specifically because of taxes.

"High taxes are driving businesses away. It's driving young people out of state. We've lost a lot of retirees because of high property taxes. We've got a lot of local people taking up residence in Florida to get away from Maine taxes; they just can't afford to stay here.

"We need tax reform, but tax reform doesn't mean tax increases. The [Palesky] tax cap may have some good ideas, but tax reform has got to be done gradually, and it's got to be done by qualified people who understand tax," said Richardson, an accountant and small business owner, who believes tax reform is the biggest, single most important issue facing the state today.

"Tax reform needs a committee with qualified people who understand taxes. Then, we could make workable tax reform," he said.

Said Libby Jones, "If Palesky passes, we lose local control, but it's not really addressing the tax problem at all. In a place like Piscataquis County, we can't begin to cut like that. There were 13 tax proposals in Augusta last year. Now how are you going to work that effectively? If we're going to reconstruct the tax system, we need to do the entire system over, but it's got to be a complete collaboration. This tax system is nearly 45 years old. It's never been changed and it's not keeping up with the times. Schools and hospitals are the absolute heart of your community. But the tax cap doesn't address that."

Libby Jones, also a small business owner, said she believed it makes more sense to set up one government entity, like a Ways and Means Committee, that puts both Tax and Appropriation committees under one roof, instead of the current two-committee system, which she noted are separate and often have competing agendas, which makes it difficult for any sort of true reform.

Access is the number-one reason Libby Jones is running again.

"Access issues are slowly but surely eroding, our economy. Our economy is so driven by being able to access our beautiful resources for hunting, fishing, hiking and biking, and for our tourists and seasonal visitors. The whole pattern of this area is changing the focus of regional access it's a real worry," said Libby Jones, who counts not only access to public land and water, but also access to federal funds for mandated programs just as important. "Piscataquis county has to have a challenger and an advocate so as not to lose specific funding on, for instance, road construction projects or special education."

"We need someone, like myself, who has the experience and institutional knowledge to collaborate with other partners to affect change," said Libby Jones.

On the county bond proposal, which seeks approval for $952,000 for economic development projects in Dover-Foxcroft, Greenville and Milo, Richardson, a long-time proponent of economic development and of fostering a diverse business market, said, "I like the idea of the bond issue, but I am concerned about increasing our taxes."

Libby Jones called it "a great, shining example of an entire county working together for economic development. As poor as we are and as rural as we are, it shows we have come together to do this bond package. Accolades to Mark [Scarano] who has done a fabulous job of bringing our communities together; we're very fortunate to have him."

On the increasing number of subdivisions and the pressure development is putting on the rural quality of life, Richardson and Libby Jones found different ground.

Richardson believes the region needs more people and more development because he said that is what will lower taxes. "Look at Lake Winnipesaukee. It seems like the more people come, the more they'll keep coming. Development is coming, whether we like it or not. It's just the way things are. But, we need to balance it with the environment. If we're looking to be a tourist area, we've got to have industry and tourism that will work together. Conservation easements allow access, so they're a good idea."

Libby Jones said, "It goes back to long-term planning. These sub-divisions do they consider the resource? Do they consider multi-use trails ? We should embrace the growth because it does bring jobs to our contractors. At the same time, I'd hate to see necklaces of development. There has to be a balance between sprawl and open spaces. You've got to really plan on how it's going to expand services in this geographic area.

"Access to land for traditional recreational purposes is essential to maintain our way of life and our regional economy. I chaired a legislative committee set up to work on traditional uses of the forest and lands and was one of the first legislators to express concern about the purchase of 'kingdom lots'. If elected, I will once again work tirelessly for snowmobilers, ATV riders, hunters, fishermen and camp lease holders."

Richardson is a public accountant and businessman. He has served multiple terms on the Greenville Board of Selectmen, Moosehead Sanitary District and the Greenville Economic Development Committee. He is a former town manager for Greenville and Monroe. As a state representative, he has worked on the State and Local Government Committee and on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

Libby Jones is a businesswoman. She has served on the Greenville Board of Selectmen and the Greenville Economic Development Committee. She is immediate past president of the Natural Resources Education Center. As a representative, she worked on the state's committee for Research and Development, the Appropriations Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Agriculture and Forestry Committee.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.