1. Do you support reducing Maine’s personal income tax rate? If yes, what is your time frame and how will you pay for it?

Libby Mitchell

Yes, I support reducing Maine’s personal income tax rates. Our businesses need capital and a reduced income tax rate would increase the flow of investment to Maine. It will be difficult to lower the rates as the state emerges from the effects of the global recession. I will consider an incremental approach.

Paul LePage

I believe the state income tax rate should be lowered to 5 percent and I think we can do it in eight years.  According to the Envision Maine report, there is a billion dollars in savings in Maine government if we can get our spending rates to the national averages.

Shawn Moody

Over time, we need to lower Maine’s top rate, from 8.5 percent to around 6.5 percent. But we need to be realistic. Lowering the top rate immediately will cost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. We need to get the economy moving again, create jobs, grow our revenues so we can begin to lower that rate. I don’t have an exact timetable.

Eliot Cutler

Before we can even discuss tax reform, we must demonstrate to Maine people that we have stopped the bleeding, squeezed out excess spending and balanced the budget without resorting to gimmicks. Then we will undertake comprehensive reform of our entire tax structure – income tax, sales tax, estate tax and property tax – in a way that will result in a fairer, simpler and flatter tax system. I aim to achieve this by the end of my first term.

Kevin Scott

Yes. We can reduce Maine’s personal income tax by initiating proven, business processes, which bring operational savings to government. One example is the current “Bend the Curve” initiative, which has demonstrated $127 million in state savings if we act now. Maine can make this happen. The time frame is two years.

2. What is the best way for Maine to reduce commercial and residential electricity costs?

Libby Mitchell

Conservation yields immediate savings. We must ensure access to natural gas by connecting the pipeline to our homes and small businesses. And we must continue our investment in our renewable portfolio including tidal, solar, biofuels and wind. The Gulf of Maine has the potential to yield the wind power equivalent to 40 nuclear power plants.

Paul LePage

Everything is on the table and everything gets assessed in terms of the potential to deliver more affordable electricity for Maine families and businesses. Additional steps we can take include tapping the natural gas lines that already run through Maine so we have more alternatives to oil.  And we need to look north to Canada for partnerships that can deliver cheaper electricity to Maine.

Shawn Moody

Conservation is the low-hanging fruit of energy independence. As far as alternative energy development goes, the guiding principle must be what has the greatest energy impact with the least environmental impact. For example, we can retrofit existing hydro dams with new turbines that increase output 25-30 percent with less environmental impact.

Eliot Cutler

I have proposed a Maine Energy Finance Authority, a new public power and energy finance authority – to bring low-cost capital to public-private partnerships, to reduce the price of electricity and to expand the availability of natural gas for industrial and commercial users and communities in Maine. The Authority also could make bulk purchases of power from Hydro-Quebec for resale in Maine.

Kevin Scott

ISO New England’s own vice president testified to Maine’s legislative committee on energy that we could lower energy cost for Maine families and businesses. The governor’s office did not act on this recommendation. I will.

3. Would reducing state regulations increase economic activity in the state? If yes, which regulations are
depressing economic growth?

Libby Mitchell

Overly burdensome or duplicative regulations should be removed. I also propose the adoption of standards to give businesses some flexibility in compliance. We should be focused on what is coming out of a company’s smokestack, and not how it got there.

Paul LePage

We also need to audit every state regulation and remove from the books the red-tape that does not lead to appreciable improvements in our quality of life. And every new law and regulation in Maine should require a job-cost impact study.  An example of job killing regulations in Maine is our health insurance mandates that make Maine among the most expensive places in the country to insure a family or a small business employee.

Shawn Moody

Absolutely. Section 179 of the IRS code allows for accelerated depreciation of the cost of business equipment up to $250,000. However, the state caps it at $25,000. This is a disincentive for businesses to invest in Maine and the state actually loses money. Conforming the state tax code with the federal code, I believe, would spur business investment and increase revenues.

Eliot Cutler

I have proposed a new Office of Regulatory Review and Repeal to look at every rule and regulation that’s on the books and to ask Maine businesses and citizens to tell us about the unnecessary, unfair, unintelligible rules that are keeping them from growing and investing.

Kevin Scott

Maine is not business friendly. Period. We must reduce the time and cost associated with our regulatory environment more than we need to toss out individual regulations. I will use sound, proven business practices to create a culture of efficiency and pro-jobs outcomes.

4. Maine once prospered as a manufacturing state. How can it compete in a global market where there is always someone who can produce goods at a lower cost?

Libby Mitchell

I will focus our economic development strategy on building sectors like biotech, composites and the natural resource based economy. I will increase access to higher education by establishing a public/private partnership to provide grants for the first year in the university system or at one of the community colleges or Maine Maritime.

Paul LePage

State-of-the-art paper machines are being shipped elsewhere because the high cost of doing business in Maine diminishes the return on these massive investments. Being the most forested state in the country is no longer enough.

Shawn Moody

We’re still sending 70 percent of our lobster catch to Canada for processing. We’re still sending whole logs out of state to be cut into lumber and made into furniture and wood products. Why? Those jobs should be right here in Maine.

Eliot Cutler

Maine still prospers as a manufacturing state, but the manufacturing is different. In order to induce more manufacturing to locate in Maine, we need to lower the cost of doing business here, specifically the costs of electricity, health care and government services. Then, we must focus on manufacturing jobs that leverage our competitive advantages – such as our natural resources and our skilled and innovative workforce, and we will need to do a much better job educating that workforce.

Kevin Scott

In Belfast we have a world-class window manufacturer, Maine also has 72 companies that manufacture components for the aerospace industry. We need to focus on manufacturing that adds value and is specialized; Maine is doing a good job in this area now.

5. Name one industry that could thrive in Maine if you were governor and explain why.

Libby Mitchell

The composite industry promises great potential. Composites are being used in the manufacturing of windmill blades, boatbuilding, road and bridge construction, and wharf repair. Focusing on emerging industries and technologies like this will create the jobs of the future.

Paul LePage

Good economic policy is not about picking winners and losers in terms of industry.  My approach would be to lower the costs and barriers of doing business for everyone so entrepreneurs in every corner of the state get a fair chance to compete, grow and create jobs.

Shawn Moody

One area we could do much more with is locally produced food and produce. National trends show that consumers want more fresh, locally produced food, and Maine is in a good place to take advantage of this. Maine people spend $3 billion a year on food and services, but Maine fishermen and farmers receive only about 3 percent of that amount.

Eliot Cutler

Tourism, our largest industry, will benefit from me being governor because I understand and respect the industry and its importance to Maine.

Kevin Scott

Agriculture. My plan calls for our K-12 children to have year-round locally grown and raised foods served exclusively in Maine’s school systems. All of Maine will benefit when we lift local earning power and employment opportunities. The impact is over $5 billion in local, sustainable economy and most importantly our children’s health will benefit as well.

6. Maine’s unemployment rate is below the national average, but in some counties – such as Aroostook, Washington and Oxford – it is much higher. How will you spur job creation in Maine’s hardest hit regions?

Libby Mitchell

We will require 25 percent of the food used in our school, prisons, and other state facilities to come from local sources. I will make sure that our forest products industry remains vibrant and strong. We also need to promote four-season tourism in those areas of unparalleled beauty.  Continued investment will be essential – just this past legislative session we were able to secure bonding funds to help preserve the railroad in Aroostook County which so many businesses depend upon.

Paul LePage

Education and training have to be part of the solution for our struggling rural counties. This includes a renewed emphasis on vocational training and the ability to earn an associate’s degree or transferable college credit with five years of high school.

Shawn Moody

By focusing on Maine’s core competencies – agriculture, forestry, and fishing. One thing we know for sure – people need to eat, drink and stay warm. We will also embrace emerging business models and alternative energy sources.

Eliot Cutler

By lowering the cost of living and doing business in Maine, we will spur investment in the state, including manufacturing operations that add value to our natural resources, such as turning wood fiber into lumber and paper, and processing fish, blueberries and potatoes.

Kevin Scott

The K-12 food economy is designed to create activity in every county by building infrastructure and creating jobs near every school district in Maine. Growing food indoors, year-round requires engineering jobs, technical jobs, manual jobs, and office jobs. It is viable, long term, and is local economy at its very best.