Media Archive

Rep. Jim annis enjoying time with constituents

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 164, No. 44, October 30, 2002

By Ben Bragdon
Staff Writer

District 112

Rep. Jim Annis of Dover-Foxcroft gets at least 20 e-mails every day from constituents inquiring about a state policy or program, or asking for direction in navigating through the sometimes frustrating maze of state bureaus.

"Most people are looking for an answer," says Annis, now running his first re-election campaign as the incum bent from District.112. "And I'm not sure they really need you to help. They just want to know what to do and where to go."

As a state representative, Annis says he has access to all the information that is flying through the halls of state Capitol, whether it be from other legislators, agencies, or private business. His job, he says, is to get that information to the people he represents.

In the past, Annis has helped families sort through their health care options, alerted seniors to low-cost programs, and passed along his knowledge of the dangers of lead and mercury, among many other things. The ability to help a constituent with a problem affecting their life by simply making a phone call or sending an e-mail, he says, is the most rewarding part of his job.

While he appreciates the personal contact with the people of District 112 that the job affords him, he also understands that there are serious issues facing lawmakers in Augusta next session. His door-to-door visits across the district have told him that the rising tax burden on Maine citizens is the number-one concern in Piscataquis County.

Annis was recently called back to Augusta to pull some extra money out of the budget. Given a goal of $140,000, the Natural Resources Committee cut out instead $240,000, Annis says, all without fleecing programs.

"If that has happened in Natural Resources," says Annis of the budget excess, "I can imagine what has happened in some of the bigger departments like DHS and DOT."

Annis, who has signed a pledge to oppose any effort to increase taxes, says that too many "splinter groups" exist in the state government, groups that have popped up over the years to siphon out budget money while performing tasks already being done elsewhere in Augusta. He would like to see an independant review done of all departments to determine where duplication of effort is occurring in order to trim the fat and tighten the budget.

Annis also feels strongly about the high costs of prescription drugs, which are pinching Maine's seniors while making drug companies rich. He tells of visiting a facility in Connecticut built by pharmaceutical giant Bristol Meyer Squib that included a gorgeous atrium complete with trees and a stream.

"Somebody is doing without their drugs so they can eat, and we are spending our money like this?," he asks.

He says drug companies should scale back on excessive spending on advertising, saying that is the physician's job to get drug information to patients, and put more money into researching new drugs. Annis says he "has his fingers crossed" hoping that Maine's no-nonsense prescription drug plan will win the approval of the Supreme Court in an upcoming court battle.

Annis is wary of a single-payer health care for the state, saying he has heard too many horror stories from friends in single-payer countries like Canada and England regarding waiting lists and improper treatment.

People are quick to see the single-payer sytem as cure for what ails Maine health care, Annis says, when the fact is that there are "all sorts of options" that would improve the existing system.

As for education, Annis, who just received an endorsement from the Maine Educators Association (MEA), says he prefers small ,local, schools, but that the facts all point to future regionalization in this and many other parts of Maine. He says long bus rides may just be a trade-off to living in a rural area, though he would hate to see any ride over one half hour.

Recognizing a limit to the taxes a town carry Annis says he would rather see the area's limited resources concentrated into one education effort than spread thin over a large region.

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