One of its most important parts calls for reforming the income tax structure to be fairer and raise needed revenue. His platform states that Maryland's income tax is now flat, with those in the middle class paying the same tax rate as millionaires. Kunkel advocates changing to a progressive tax structure, in which the percentage of income tax paid gradually rises as income increases. This would take some of the tax burden off lower-income taxpayers and raise more revenues to fund unmet needs.
One of the biggest needs is universal health care coverage. Kunkel supports a "single payer" health plan that would provide all Marylanders full and complete health coverage. His platform states that this type of program is used in Canada and Germany and is cost-effective and gives the consumer unlimited choice. If a single payer system were implemented in Maryland, most people would actually see their health care expenditures decrease.
With "single payer," health care providers would continue to operate for profit, but private insurance companie--the profiting middlemen who soak 30 cents of every health care dollar--would be gone. Almost every other developed country in the world guarantees comprehensive health care access to all its citizens.
On another important issue, Kunkel opposes the death penalty, especially because of Maryland's shameful record of racial bias in death penalty cases. He supports creating a criminal justice system that is fair and that emphasizes prevention above punishment. He calls for a system that works toward rehabilitating offenders and preparing them to be lawful citizens when they are released from prison-this means education, job training, and substance abuse programs.
He believes that much of tomorrow's crime can be prevented if the enormous social needs of today are addressed, such as education, after-school programs, social services, and jobs that pay a living wage. He makes the point that a "prevention approach" to crime is cost effective, as well as just. The cost of maintaining a prisoner is far higher than the cost of educating a child, or of job training, or of providing adequate social services to those in need.
As a Green Party candidate, Kunkel has experienced how difficult it is for third party candidates to get on the ballot in Maryland. He will propose legislation to make it easier for small political parties to run candidates. He feels the two major parties have created laws that lock out small parties. As a result, Maryland's third-party candidates rarely make it onto the ballot, and the voters rarely have the opportunity to hear the ideas and solutions they have to offer.
Currently, small parties (those with less than 1% voter affiliation, or 27,000 members) must gather 10,000 signatures every four years to maintain their official party status with the State Board of Elections. These signatures allow the party to run a presidential candidate only. Kunkel believes if a party has collected the required 10,000 signatures and is officially recognized in Maryland, it should be able to run candidates at all levels without collecting more signatures.
He also supports campaign finance reform. These Clean Election Laws would provide full public campaign funding for qualified state-level candidates who refuse private contributions. Candidates who decline to participate in this voluntary program would be permitted to raise money on their own, as always. Kunkel knows this would free politicians from constant fund raising, thereby allowing them to focus on their legislative duties instead. As he sees it, Clean Election Laws are the only way to break the stranglehold "Big Money" has on politics in Maryland.
As a representative of the Green Party, Kunkel appropriately has a very strong environmental program. It includes: full funding and staffing of environmental law enforcement agencies; statewide tax credits for energy efficient measures on new structures and retro-fits of existing ones; including non-toxic recyclable insulation, weatherizing, energy saving lighting and appliances, and on-site renewable energy production; mandating that Maryland's 26 coal burning power plants be fitted with the latest pollution reducing technology; and the decommissioning of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant.
He advocates "polluter pay" laws that require pollution cleanup at the expense of the polluter rather than the state or local government; deposits on all glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers as a means to conserve resources while keeping Maryland clean; support for the local and/or organic production of food on family farms; and ensuring that environmental protection and ecological practices are taught at every level in the public schools.
In order to guarantee that no Marylander lives in poverty, Kunkel supports raising the state's minimum wage to one that people can actually live on. A living wage, indexed to the local cost of housing and phased in over several years, would ensure that all minimum-wage workers would be able to afford basic housing and other necessities.
On education, Kunkel wants to reduce class size to no larger than 15 in elementary schools and 25 in middle schools, with first priority being those schools in poorer jurisdictions, and break up huge underachieving middle and high schools into smaller schools. He advocates raising public teachers' salaries, and making the teachers' pension plan, which is now one of the worst, into one of the best in the country; making full-day kindergarten available for children of working parents; guaranteeing pre-K in poorer school districts; making after-school programs available to all children; and prioritizing the budget to fund these policies.
Addressing corporate reform, Kunkel supports making corporations pay their fair share of taxes by closing tax loopholes that are not available to small businesses and individuals and establishing civil and criminal liability of a corporation's top management and directors when Maryland's public interest is damaged.
In their endorsements for this election, both The Sun and City Paper failed to endorse Rick Kunkel. With such a comprehensive, thoughtful program, it's a disgrace that the mainstream media have ignored Kunkel's campaign. He deserves so much better. Voters in the 42nd district can take matters into their own hands, however, and vote for Rick Kunkel for state delegate--and do themselves and Maryland a great service.