Columnist Alan Caron claimed that “corporate welfare” gets no scrutiny in Augusta (“Maine has two welfare systems, but one gets much less scrutiny,” April 10). As a four-year veteran of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, I can attest that he could not be more wrong. Even his characterization of Maine’s modest suite of tax incentives as “welfare” is wrong.

Welfare is an act of charity.

The auto bailouts of 2009, for example, could be considered “corporate welfare.” States give business tax incentives, however, to attract and retain businesses that would be fine on their own somewhere else, similar to how businesses compete with each other to attract the best employees.

Tax incentives are routinely threatened with every budget shortfall in Augusta. Business advocacy groups find themselves defending them annually.

The Department of Economic and Community Development will soon release a study of all their economic development and research and development incentive programs, and a tax committee formed to root out “corporate welfare” came up empty-handed this year.

We don’t do enough to encourage and embrace businesses in Maine. If we did, perhaps we’d have more. Small businesses struggle to pay bills, and many bigger businesses once owned by Mainers have been bought and closed, with jobs going to more competitive states.

Maine can refuse to play ball or we can grab a glove and get in the game, protecting the meager incentives we offer and carefully adding tools to the DECD toolbox.

The recent bill aimed at attracting large-scale manufacturers is an example of such a tool. The proposal came with built-in scrutiny. If benchmarks weren’t met, the tax incentives disappeared. Sadly, anti-business lawmakers killed the bill.

Businesspeople need predictability so they can plan for the future and manage budgets. Unfortunately, the majority of Maine’s Legislature seems uninterested in attracting jobs.