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Political Brew: Impact of vaccine mandates, tackling taxes and the CD2 race

Our analysts this week are Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio, and attorney Ken Altshuler, longtime co-host of the WGAN Morning News.

MAINE, USA — "The vaccine mandate is not the cause of workforce shortages in health care."

That's what Gov. Janet Mills said this past week in response to calls to soften the vaccine mandate for health care workers by adding a regular testing option.

"I think the governor is in delusional land here," Ray Richardson said.

He concedes that the shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers is a problem that goes back decades in Maine, but he believes the governor's mandate is too strict.

"These people were heroes last year working through the pandemic, and now she's treating them like they're zeros. Testing is a reasonable alternative so that you don't have people, whether vaccinated or not, having the COVID-19 virus and working with patients," he said. tr

Ken Altshuler is fully on board with Mills' mandate.

"If I go in the hospital, if I go in a nursing home, I want those people vaccinated, and I don't think masks are enough or testing is enough," he said.

Republicans in the Maine Legislature are working up a plan to send surplus tax revenues back to taxpayers in what they are calling the "Give It Back" program. They say Gov. Mills has been overspending, enabled by massive federal relief.

Altshuler thinks a better idea is to put that money into the state's rainy day fund.

He said, "I'm all for tinkering with the income tax system if possible and feasible. But just giving money back? I think that's a bad solution."

Former Gov. Paul LePage, who is seeking to return to the Blaine House, is reviving his proposal to eliminate the state's income tax, which raises roughly half of Maine tax revenue.

RELATED: Sen. Susan Collins endorses Paul LePage's 2022 campaign for governor

Richardson favors eliminating income taxes and replacing them with a "consumption tax."

"Number one," he said, "if you are concerned about the wealthy paying their fair share, that's a good way to measure wealth, by consumption. The other thing it does is offloads a lot of our tax burden onto tourists. We have 40 million people come to the state every year."

Another politician looking to reclaim his old job is former Congressman Bruce Poliquin, who is running for the second district seat he lost to Democratic Rep. Jared Golden. Poliquin says he is planning to move to the Bangor area as a practical matter for campaigning and establish a home in the district firmly.

Richardson points out that candidates are not required to reside within the district they wish to serve, and thinks this is a non-issue for the campaign.

"I think this race is going to turn on Nancy Pelosi versus a conservative approach to governing. Jared Golden has voted with Pelosi 84% of the time. I know he didn't support her as speaker, but the truth is he supports her agenda, and I think that's where this battle will lie."

Altshuler also feels it doesn't matter where Poliquin lives. He said that Golden is very popular in his district, but "if there's a Republican wave, that could hurt Jared Golden. It's Jared's to lose."

RELATED: U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visits Maine
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RELATED: Former Governor Paul LePage officially launches reelection campaign with Augusta rally

Our analysts also discuss Rep. Chellie Pingree's support of a plan to expand the U.S. Supreme Court to 13 seats, what happens next now that Congress has put off a potential default by raising the debt ceiling into December, and the prospects for Democrats to enact some version of President Joe Biden's expensive agenda.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine's the Weekend Morning Report.

Watch more Political Brew episodes.