Bill Beardsley says well-intentioned government restrictions have inhibited business competition, raised health care and energy costs and increased taxes to the point that businesses are reluctant to move to Maine and too many young people have to leave to pursue careers.

Beardsley, 67, is one of seven candidates for the Republican nomination for governor in the June 8 primary. He laid out his conservative approach to strengthening Maine’s business climate during a meeting with the MaineToday Media endorsement board Tuesday.

Beardsley, a former president of Husson University, is credited with turning a troubled business school into a profitable private institution offering a broad range of courses. Beardsley also was vice president of Bangor Hydro Electric Co.

He has worked in government as well, as an aide to the governor of Vermont in the 1970s and in Alaska’s Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

Beardsley said Maine must lower energy costs for businesses, lower state taxes and scale back regulations that make this an expensive and uncertain place to do business.

“I think I can sell some of these conservative ideas,” Beardsley said. “If you can connect these dots, get government out of the way and prioritize it, we should be able to get on the way to prosperity.”

High electricity costs make Maine products more expensive and less competitive with products from other states and countries, he said. The state should welcome a wide range of energy options, including nuclear power, offshore drilling and a liquefied natural gas terminal somewhere along its 3,000-plus miles of coastline, he said.

He wants the state’s tax burden to be reduced to the national average over four to eight years. To do that, two areas of state government need to be cut: the Department of Health and Human Services — by tightening eligibility criteria — and state aid to education, he said.

To cut education costs, the state needs a larger average student-to-teacher ratio, he said. One reason Maine’s average class size is so small, he said, is because an inordinate number of students are classified as needing special education. The criteria to qualify can be made more stringent, he said.

Some areas of education need investment, he said. Beardsley supports early intervention in kindergarten, first and second grade to make sure students who are at-risk don’t fall behind.



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