SOUTH PORTLAND – Gov. Paul LePage told more than 300 members of the Associated General Contractors of Maine on Wednesday night that his administration is already working hard to reduce unnecessary regulation to make Maine more business-friendly.

Speaking at the group’s 60th annual meeting, LePage, a Republican, focused his 15-minute keynote address on his administration’s first proposed legislation, which he said is a product of the Red Tape Audit forums he has been holding since his inauguration Jan. 5.

“We’ve sent a down payment to the Legislature and I am telling you it’s a down payment, because we are just beginning,” he said. “First, we get the environmental side, then we’ll get the labor side, then we’ll get the (agriculture) side, and by the time we’re done, we will be having what we call a balance between the protection of the environment and decent paying jobs — or at least the ability to create decent paying jobs in the state.”

Noting the push-back his proposal is already receiving from some environmental groups, LePage said his plans just seek a balance between protecting the environment and allowing business to thrive.

“The overwhelming majority of the suggestions being made by the business community is that we want tough regulations, we want tough enforcement, but we want the regulators of the state of Maine to have a little common sense and to be willing to work with the business community,” he said. “If we can convince state regulators that business is not the enemy, then we can work with them. That’s why we’re going to find the balance between good environmental laws and regulations and a good business environment for everyone.”

LePage said business owners in natural resource-based fields must pay close attention to environmental impacts because their livelihoods depend on it.

“The whole attitude that the agricultural industry, the paper industry, the fishing industry are bad is a misnomer, and we just need to educate the bureaucrats in Augusta,” he said.

In addition to the legislative proposal, LePage said he is working on drafting new executive orders and rewriting department regulations to ease burdens on businesses.

Businesses need predictability, quick turnaround from regulators and fair treatment, LePage said.

“My message to the regulators in the state is that family-owned businesses, midsize businesses and large businesses in the state of Maine are on the endangered species list, and that we must defend the private sector the same way that the environmentalists are protecting the tree frogs and Canadian lynx,” he said. “We all live in Maine for a reason — Maine is a good state. We just need to work a little harder at making it prosperous.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]