Erik C Jorgensen, Democrathttp://www.erikjorgensen.orgFacebook Twitter
Office Sought: Representative - District 41
Occupation: Consultant / Administrator
Bowdoin College, B.A. 1987
Harvard University, Master of Public Administration, 1999
Married to Tamara Risser and we are parents of a 13 year old son.
Why are you running for office? Over the past 25 years as the director of two Maine cultural/educational institutions, I've traveled and worked in communities all across Maine, from Kittery to Fort Kent. I know the state and many of its challenges well. I am running for re-election because I believe that after two years in office, I've gained experience that will help me be more effective in representing and advocating for Portland. Maine has many complex problems that are often hard to understand, and even harder to find solutions for. Starting a second term, I'll be able to continue to work on these issues, but with a much shorter learning curve than when I first entered office. I am proud to have served as a member of the Appropriations Committee, and if re-elected I expect to continue my work there, pushing to assure that Maine's urban communities get at least a fair shake in the state budget. I've voted for Maine's environment, for our public educational system, and for bonding, such as the recent bond issues that have bolstered our city's transportation infrastructure , R&D, and other capital needs. I am invested in our community - I have lived in Greater Portland since the 1980's and in in Deering for well over a decade. Our son attends the Portland Public Schools, and I have been active in a number of organizations and boards, from Portland Rotary to the MPBN community advisory board, Maine Center for Economic Policy, and Good Will-Hinckley.
State Representative (2012-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
Absolutely – The Affordable Care Act was designed to foster health care in two ways – first, through expansion of private insurance coverage through the insurance exchanges, and second, by expanding the number of low-income people eligible for Medicaid in each state.
Maine has successfully done the first of these, but because it has not done the second, more than 70,000 people who would otherwise have insurance are currently not covered. This has put an enormous strain on our hospitals, which treat these citizens through costly Emergency Room services and charity care. Uninsured patients who seek care in this fashion do not do as well as patients with regular medical providers, as their problems tend to be caught later after they have reached a higher rate of severity.
The 126th legislature passed (and I voted for) Medicaid expansion five times in different forms, and each time it was vetoed by the Governor. This refusal to accept Federal Medicaid money has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars in foregone revenue and economic impact. This is something that has added to our budget problems. But the best argument is that it's the right thing to do.
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?Maine has the oldest population of any state in America. We have a high poverty rate, a very dispersed rural population, and a high cost of living, especially in greater Portland. All these factors result in increased costs for social services. I don’t think these services should be reduced from their current levels. In fact, some programs, such as the circuit breaker program, should be reinstated to help residents, especially elders, stay in their homes. "Welfare" has been a football that has been kicked around mercilessly for the past two years. But what gets lost in the politics is that most beneficiaries desperately need the very limited support provided by the state. One such program, general assistance, is the very last strand in the safety net. Hundreds of families here in Portland use it from time to time, mostly for housing, and mostly for short periods. It helps keep people off the street. People do worry rightfully about fraud, but these programs are carefully monitored at both the state and local levels. The last legislature added new investigative and monitoring capacity to help root out fraudulent use of the system. Finally, it's worth noting that if the state reduces its commitment to welfare, then the burden falls directly on local governments, particularly in cities. The problems don't go away, there is merely a cost shift to the local government to pay for them. These are statewide issues, and should have statewide solutions.
Do you support raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour?Yes
By how much?I don't know what the exact figure I'd advocate for would be, but I think that Portland's effort to raise the minimum wage is a step in the right direction, and one that would be better to see done on a statewide or Federal basis than just locally. It is important to note the amounts being currently debated still fall short of a "living wage", but I would rather see this problem be tackled incrementally than in a giant jump at some point in the future. Experience in other places has shown that minimum wage increases make low-wage workers less likely to require government assistance.
Would you support legalization of marijuana?Yes
Please explain your position on legalization?I supported this issue when it came up in the legislature, and I do believe that the voters should be allowed to decide the matter in a statewide referendum. I am a strong believer in the value of medical marijuana, and I also believe that prohibition has not been an effective strategy, given the size of the marijuana crop, the level of demand, and its widespread current availability. I am most comfortable with decriminalization. I am a less sure about the public good of businesses forming to market and promote marijuana use. As a legislator, I have concerns around issues like impaired driving and new burdens on social services. Every recreational drug, including tobacco and alcohol, brings with it social costs that the state will ultimately be required to pay for. Although it is worth noting that with regard to marijuana, the state is already bearing many of these costs without a revenue stream to offset them. If marijuana were legalized, and if tax revenues were to be realized, I would be inclined to designate a significant portion of those revenues to fund prevention and social program costs (as we do with smoking and alcohol). The rest could go into the general fund. I would not tie a specific program to this particular stream of revenue.