Colleen M Lachowicz, DemocratFacebook
Office Sought: Senator - District 16
Occupation: social worker
William Paterson College, B.A. 1987
Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, M.S.W. 1999
Why are you running for office? I am running for re-election because I think there is still plenty of work to do. I ran for office in the first place because I thought things like access to health care, strong public schools, and jobs were important. They still are. I believe we need to expand our economy so that people can get the education and training to get good paying jobs here. I believe that I have been able to take my experience of working in our communities here in Central Maine and translate that into some changes that help local people, like congenital heart defect screenings for newborns or expanded insurance coverage for children with autism. I want to protect property tax payers from increases due to state budgetary problems. I want to make sure our seniors are able to get the services they need to stay in their homes for as long as they want and are able. I also am like most of the people I talk to; I want to make sure that we preserve our assistance programs for those that truly need it. I think there are ways we can save money and provide better outcomes by making changes to programs. Making changes like this, strengthening our public schools, improving access to early child education and interventions, and improving access to health care are a few of the ways we can help build up our communities and attract more jobs. A world class, well trained and educated work force is the best way for us to expand our economy.
Maine State Senate- District 25-- 12/2013- present
The federal health care law has offered to pay states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide health coverage to low income Mainers. Do you support Medicaid (or MaineCare) expansion?Yes
I support Medicaid expansion. This would bring access to health care for approximately 70,000 Maine citizens, including 3000 veterans. Non-partisan sources say we won't lose money and it would bring much needed jobs. Access to health care is important to families. The people who will be most helped by Medicaid expansion are working Maine people who don't make enough to qualify for health insurance subsidies, but who are above the federal poverty level. These are working Maine citizens. They are people we know and see every day. Without access to health care, people often don't go to the doctor unless it is an emergency. Being able to see a family doctor will help patients manage chronic illnesses and get critical screenings and tests.
Opponents of Medicaid expansion often cite uncertainty in whether the federal government will follow through. The federal government has never refused-or failed-to pay reimbursement for Medicaid. There was a decrease in the federal reimbursement rate that was due to stimulus funds ending. In Kennebec County it is estimated that 5997 people would gain access to much needed health care and approximately 367 jobs would be created in the county. In Somerset County the numbers are estimated to be 3590 would get access to health care and 207 new jobs would be created. In Kennebec County Medicaid expansion would stimulate about $43 million in additional economic activity. In Somerset that estimate is $23 million.
Reform of the state’s public assistance programs has been the focus of debates in the State House and on the campaign trail. Do you believe that the state’s welfare programs are too generous?No
What, if anything, would you change about welfare?The average TANF benefit in the state of Maine is $485. That is the lowest in New England. I would like to add incentives for people to act in a healthy manner and move towards work. I would also like to take away disincentives that lead to people not moving forward with their lives. I have seen much arguing and disagreeing about our welfare system at the State House. What is often lost in that is that just about everyone agrees that it is better for people to work rather than collect benefits. But we need good paying jobs. Access to affordable higher education and training has to be a part of welfare reform. I would like to see people be able to use SNAP benefits or food stamps more in farmers markets and local agriculture. One thing to remember is that welfare benefits help children, the elderly and the disabled most of all. We want to make sure to preserve this. During the past legislative session we passed a bill that makes it so every person who comes into a DHHS office to apply for some sort of benefit has to get a comprehensive assessment that includes an vocational component. That way we can direct them to the right services so they can get back to work asap. I think this is a good step towards reforming the system so it leads to people working.
Do you support raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour?Yes
By how much?I support a minimum wage increase. There are a lot of suggestions and opinions out there about how much it should be raised. I think if people work, then it should pay enough for them to live. I think the legislature and the people of Maine should have a conversation about how to raise it while preserving jobs. The question of how much it should be raised and how quickly is something workers, business owners and policy makers should discuss.
Would you support legalization of marijuana?No
Please explain your position on legalization?I support this issue going to a referendum for the people of Maine to decide. Other states have legalized marijuana. But the federal government considers it illegal. So there are risks associated with legalization. There are other risks associated with marijuana, much like alcohol. So the impact on substance abuse must be considered. We also need to examine how this has happened in other states and any unintended consequences. If it was legalized, it should be regulated and taxed.