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Democratic Party Platform 1956

This platform is the result of the free discussion of State problems by hundreds of people from every corner of Maine. It reflects their thoughtful concern with our human and economic resources, and their proposals for governmental reforms to conserve and to develop these resources in the interests of the common good.

It salutes the boldly imaginative leadership of Gov. Edmund S. Muskie for his initiation of far-reaching legislative action. It applauds the loyal civil servants and friends of responsible government who have helped to broaden the narrow vision of our state government after years of uninterrupted one-party control.

As a means of strengthening further an effective two-party system of government for our State, the Democratic Party of Maine, in State convention assembled this twenty-fourth day of March, 1956, hereby adopts the following platform of ideas and ideals:

GOVERNMENTAL REFORM

To strengthen the position of the chief executive of Our State as a responsible leader of the majority of the people we urge:

The abolition of the Executive Council; the provision of a four-year term for the Governor; the institution of annual sessions of the Legislature; the creation of a cabinet of department heads appointed by the Governor to serve concurrently with him; and the confirmation of gubernatorial appointments by the State Senate.

To increase the efficiency of our State government, we recommend the revision of our State Constitution; the elimination of separate dates for State and National elections, with the gubernatorial election being held in a non-presidential year; the creation of a Board of Pardons to handle probation and parole cases, and to recommend to the Governor cases for executive clemency; the prohibition of all State employes from participating in State political activities; in view of the recognized public interest in lobbying activities, a requirement that lobbyists file full statements of their fees and expenses; and the formation of a Department of Conservation to include supervision of all our natural resources. We recommend that the survey of State Government, initiated by Governor Muskie, serve as the basis of future legislative and administrative action.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Reaffirming our belief that the full development of the human resources of the State rests finally on its system of education, from the elementary school to the university and adult community, we urge:

Increased appropriations for teachers’ salaries by the State to enable communities to meet successfully the competition for their teachers; continuing scrutiny and revision of the formulas governing state subsidies to towns and cities for education, including the cost of new school buildings.

Immediate Federal Aid to education in full confidence that such aid can be received without federal interference in teaching and learning.

Aggressive and systematic improvement of facilities of State teachers’ colleges and increased salaries for staffs.

Steady strengthening of our University of Maine and increased appropriations to enable it to lower its tuition to make opportunity for study there available to a larger number of Maine youth.

Commendation of the creation of a permanent Advisory Committee on Education, provided with necessary funds, to study continuously the problems of education in the State, together with problems of departmental organization, and to recommend solutions to these problems in order of their importance and critical urgency.

Increased Old Age Assistance from the present maximum of $55 a month to such amount as is necessary to approach the increase in the cost of living; the liberalization of old age assistance requirements for eligibility and dependency; and the inclusion of convalescent homes in the hospital insurance program.

In order that more attention be given to treatment and rehabilitation of patients, we urge increased support for all State Institutions of Welfare to enable them to attract and to retain adequately paid, decently housed, and professionally trained personnel.

Carrying out of Governor Muskie’s long-range building program to meet institutional and educational needs, providing necessary capital through accepted business financing principles.

“The establishing of State-wide preventive and psychiatric programs to reduce the growing number of mental patients now requiring hospital care.

The setting up of an institution for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering from alcoholism, perversions, and other maladjustments.

The appointment of two deputy commissioners: one for penal institutions, and one for psychiatric institutions.

A continuance of the gradual process of encouraging Indians to take their places in general society as first-class citizens of the State without destroying the values of tribal organization for those who prefer to remain on their reservations.

As a means of achieving the ends of Justice and of improving the service of rehabilitation, we urge the establishment of a permanent Board of Pardons, Parole, and Probation to handle cases of parole and probation, and to recommend to the Governor cases for executive clemency.

The reactivation of the Judicial Council as a permanent organization with an adequate staff and budget to consider such changes in our judicial system as the establishment of district courts and courts of domestic relations, and to recommend improvements in rules governing judicial proceedings.

Systematic continuance of the merit increase program for all state employes.

Recognizing that the labor which produces and contributes to the economic resources of the State is a precious element of our human resources, the Democratic Party urges:

The enactment of a State labor relations law.

The enactment of a minimum wage law.

An act to require the Maine Industrial Accident Commission to publish its rules of procedure, and to provide that reasonable counsel fees be paid by the employer in disputed eases arising out of claims for compensation by workmen injured in industrial accidents; and revise the law to reduce to 4 the minimum number of employes required for industrial accident coverage.

A legislative resolution against discrimination in industrial employment to protect elderly employees.

Revision of the unemployment compensation law so as to remove the inequities of the present laws governing disqualification.

We recommend that the State Park Commission be given the status of a park authority to acquire and develop more recreation and camping areas and historic sites, with power to issue its own bonds.

ECONOMIC RESOURCES

To protect the interests of the farmer and to encourage the consumption of fluid milk and milk products, the Democratic Party recommends revision of the law fixing the price of milk to embody the successful experience of states comparable to Maine.

Legislation to lighten the financial burdens of the farmer by expanding Federal aid and exploring further sources of State aid in spreading a lower interest rate over a longer period of time.

Support of the concept of a Federal Farm Program to protect the interests of the family farm. We urge that the products of the Maine farmer should be considered in all Federal Farm legislation.

To encourage Farmers’ Cooperatives we urge the assignment of a qualified State Agent to act as consultant to cooperatives in management and marketing techniques.

Commendation of the steps taken by the farmers in Aroostook in establishing a successful self-help plan of cooperative sales promotion, and methods of marketing.

Recognizing that a critical situation exists as a result of the failure of the seven-year accelerated program, and believing that Maine’s economy has a great stake in the road system, from the smallest farm-to-village road to the greatest super-highway, the Democratic Party recommends the formulation of an adequately financed plan with stricter controls of construction schedules and costs, and an improved method of rural-road assistance.

The Democratic Party commends the advances made by the Department of Industry and Commerce, established under Governor Muskie’s leadership, in stimulating a more effective program for economic resources, including forests, minerals, and recreation, by means of improved research, promotional methods, and public relations.

“A program to increase the availability of capital at a low rate of interest for industrial development by exploring Federal and State assistance.

Revision of the rate-making law to prevent inflated values entering into the base for utility rates. Mindful of the vigorous support which the Democratic Party has always given the Passamaquoddy Tidal Project as a source of inexpensive power, and commending the Democratic Congress for enacting into law the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Survey Bill, we urge the appropriation of $3,000,000 by Congress as called for by the bill in order that the survey can be made.

Legislation to achieve the full development of the hydro-electric potential of our great river systems with due regard for the preservation of existing recreational resources.

Appropriate steps to realize our atomic energy potential in the public interest.

Review by a committee to be appointed by the Governor of all legislation affecting sea and shore fisheries and a public report of its findings.

Increased appropriations to provide additional coastal wardens and more effective promotion of sea foods in State and out-of-State markets; and increased federal appropriation for more adequate Coast Guard protection, and the improvement of harbors and navigation facilities.

Creation of a Department of Conservation with jurisdiction of inland fish and game, mineral, water, and other resources, as well as sea and shore fisheries.

Strengthening the present State laws controlling water pollution to prevent any increase in the present level of pollution and to provide a deadline for the start of pollution abatement, with a flexible time limit to prevent unreasonable hardship during clean-up operations in complex cases of contamination.

Legislation to insure adequate fishways.

The Democratic Party urges a complete reappraisal of the tax structure of the State.

We commit ourselves to work to bring out the increased services set forth in the foregoing platform, and we recognize our responsibility to provide sufficient revenue to meet these needs.

“In view of the economies possible through further use of line budgeting initiated by Governor Muskie, the savings resulting from the consolidation of overlapping departments described in the reforms advocated in this platform and a history of increasing revenues from existing sources, we believe that no tax increase or additional tax should be put into effect until there is a demonstrated need for such revenue. Should this need be proved, we reaffirm our conviction that the ability-to-pay principal be paramount in any tax program.

ADDENDUM

The Democratic Party urges a complete reappraisal of the structure of the State.

We commit ourselves to work to bring about the increased services set forth in the foregoing platform, and we recognize our responsibility to provide sufficient revenue to meet these needs.

We recognize that there are economies possible through further use of line budgeting initiated by Governor Muskie, that there would be savings resulting from our proposed consolidation of overlapping departments, and there is a history of increasing revenues from existing sources.

We also recognize that these factors may not be enough to provide for the minimum needs that spell progress.

Any additional revenues should be based on the ability–to-pay principle, whether this be achieved through a graduated income tax or an increase in the sales tax with additional exemptions covering necessities.

We believe that the people of Maine, in the light of these needs, will support such a tax program.

March 26, 1956

Source: Vose, Clement. Editor. Political Party Platforms, State of Maine, 1952-1958. Citizenship Clearing House, Bowdoin College. Brunswick, Maine. 1958.

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