Friday, March 7, 2014
By Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland
PORTLAND — Job creation and strengthening Maine’s economy are issues that nearly everyone agrees on – they even cross the political divide.
Gov. LePage’s administration recently claimed it has implemented “policies designed to attract, retain and appreciate companies that create jobs for Mainers.”
While noble concepts, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the governor’s record:
• Maine ranks dead last in job creation since the governor took office.
• Maine’s wage and salary growth is the second worst in the nation – and increasing at less than half the rate of the rest of our country.
• On the governor’s watch, Maine’s credit ratings have been downgraded, and this damaged our economic credibility with investors and other states.
If Maine were a business, and the governor a CEO, we would question the direction we are headed in. Are we moving in a direction that will allow us to compete, to go forward, to succeed – or not?
To answer this, let’s consider the governor’s policies. On almost every important economic issue, the governor has tried to block economic progress:
• This session, Democrats passed a first-of-its-kind comprehensive workforce training bill to address the “skills gap.” The governor vetoed it.
• Democrats passed an omnibus energy bill to lower electricity and heating costs for Maine families and businesses. The governor vetoed it.
• For more than 600 days, the governor refused to issue $100 million in bonds – bonds the people of Maine voted to support. Holding this back kept 4,000 people from getting back to work.
• The governor reneged on a deal with a world innovator in new energy solutions. Statoil has since put the entire project on hold – jeopardizing more than $200 million in investment in Maine and thousands of jobs.
Next, let’s consider the governor’s behavior and its impact on Maine’s brand and reputation:
When the governor’s policies are questioned, he responds with personal attacks. The governor repeatedly makes national news for these behaviors.
Most recently, he personally attacked state Sen. Troy Jackson with an offensive slur. He then mocked Sen. Jackson’s profession as a logger and insulted all Maine loggers by saying they aren’t smart enough to work in Augusta. The result: headlines on CNN and in USA Today and The Washington Post.
This was not the first time Gov. LePage received national headlines. It started with his threat to punch a reporter. Then there was the time he likened the Gestapo of the Holocaust to the Internal Revenue Service.
And when he defended his opposition to eliminating toxic chemicals, like BPA, from kids’ sippy cups by dismissing the chemicals’ effects as nothing more than causing “some women (to) have little beards.” And then when he refused to meet with the NAACP, telling the group to “kiss my butt.”
And most recently, the governor threatened to blow up this newspaper’s offices – a workplace that employs more than 100 people. Many would consider this comment to be a threat of violence. This governor dismissed it as a “joke.”
Comments like these are irresponsible and not fitting of our state’s highest elected leader. But the bigger question is: Does the governor think that statements like these help attract businesses and investors?
How many entrepreneurs and business owners read these headlines and think Maine is a good place for their capital or business?
Taken all together, this may be the most anti-business record of any Maine governor.
Gov. LePage and his administration fundamentally misunderstand the Maine economy.
The governor’s economic development commissioner thinks Maine is a discount seller in a fire-sale race to the bottom. But that shouldn’t be the case. Yet, the governor’s economic agenda of regressive tax policy and severely reduced government spending will make Maine less competitive and a pretty lousy place to live and do business.
For example, his commissioner cites four states as models for economic development. But a closer look reveals that each of these states had higher rates of children in poverty than Maine. Is this the governor’s vision for Maine – for our future?
We know what a growing, prosperous economy looks like. It’s an economy where our small businesses are thriving and innovating, with access to capital, a skilled workforce and a government that supports them; where our kids are getting an exceptional education from our public schools, pre-K to college and beyond; and where our great Maine places – our cities and town centers, our working forests, farms and coastland – are centers of economic growth, attracting people and new businesses.
Growing our economy won’t be easy, and honest disagreements over economic policy will occur, but Maine is at a crossroads. We can go backward and follow Gov. LePage in a race to the bottom – or we can move forward and build an economy that our kids can succeed in.
Let’s move forward.
— Special to the Press Herald