Moody wants to lower the top income-tax rate to 6 or 6.5 percent. This would be less of a bite to the budget than what LePage proposes, but the state would still have to brutally cut social services and education. Moody's theme is the expansion of small business, but he doesn't say how. On social issues, though, he's progressive.

Scott has an idea that would revolutionize the state's agriculture: have all school food be supplied by local organic farms, with a loan fund to help farms meet the demand. One hundred percent local food in cafeterias would be impossible, but a less ambitious scheme could be phased in over years. (Mitchell has a similar, more modest plan.)

Scott also has a cockamamie idea: drug-test the tens of thousands of people on Medicaid and welfare — "to promote treatment, not to deny benefits," he says.

But, hey, anyone can run for governor.

Best and worst:A highlight, and a lowlight, from Maine's imagined future

The best idea is Eliot Cutler's. It's business-friendly, but not trickle-down. It could actually create jobs, among other benefits.

"Governors don't create jobs," he maintains. "Governors create conditions in which people and businesses can thrive." Therefore, "cut the costs of living and doing business in Maine" by lowering the costs of electricity and health care through government-run enterprises.

He would leverage Medicaid (Maine Care), Dirigo Health, and the teachers' and state employees' health plans to create insurance plans open to small businesses and individuals, taking advantage of federal health-care-reform funds. The plans would promote healthy lifestyles. Doctors would be paid for maintaining health rather than in fees for services.

State government would tackle high electric rates by financing (through tax-exempt bonds) windmills and other decentralized, green-power projects that could zip electrons directly to local industries and communities, bypassing the power grid. He points to Madison's cheap public hydro power as the reason a giant tomato greenhouse located there.

Paul LePage's absurd tax proposals form the worst idea.

He not only would cut individual and corporate income taxes, but also cut taxes on pension income, cigarettes, and cars. He would eliminate the estate tax. His proposals would wipe out many social services and much education funding, and restrict state regulation of most anything. It would "set Maine back decades," Mitchell correctly says.

Candidates on corrections

The Corrections Department eats up the most money in the state budget, after the departments of Health and Human Services and Education. It costs three times the community-college system's cost. For years this budget — $153 million this fiscal year — has grown feverishly along with the inmate population. But you'd never know corrections was a big part of state government from listening to the gubernatorial candidates in their debates: for the most part, silence.

Earlier this year the Maine State Prison's troubles noisily burst into the legislative halls and the daily press in the fight over a bill to restrict the confinement of inmates in the 132 "supermax" isolation cells. Most of these inmates are mentally ill, yet solitary confinement makes them sicker. The bill failed, but the Legislature ordered a study of solitary.

The prison has other troubles, including deaths of inmates while in the hands of prison staff — the state police are investigating — and cuts to prisoner educational and rehabilitation programs. Demoralized, overworked, underpaid guards work on inadequately staffed shifts.

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