PORTLAND – Mark Dubois said he and the authors of a new prescription for Maine’s economy are pretty much on the same page.

Dubois, the natural resources manager for Poland Spring, said he agrees with the top five priorities for the state’s next governor, outlined in “Making Maine Work,” by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Foundation.

The report says that controlling health insurance costs, reining in energy costs, controlling state regulations, reforming the personal income tax and upgrading the state’s transportation system are the most pressing issues the next governor should tackle.

The report also offers suggestions for addressing the problems, such as encouraging wellness programs, negotiating electricity deals with Canada, renewing tax reform efforts, changing the state’s “culture of regulation,” fostering innovation and increasing businesses’ access to capital.

Dubois, who attended a briefing on the report at the University of New England’s Portland campus Wednesday morning, said he would really like to see the state do something about electricity costs, which are 60 percent higher than the national average.

Dubois said the proposal to negotiate lower rates with Canadian suppliers makes sense because electricity — much of it produced by clean hydroelectric plants — in that country is much cheaper.

He said he has relatives in Canada who heat their house with electricity — typically a heating source of last resort in Maine because of high rates.

Dubois also agreed with the report’s contention that most businesses can deal with state and local regulations but have trouble keeping up with rules that change regularly.

“Let’s raise the bar high,” Dubois said, “but don’t move the bar.”

Michael Bourque, vice president of corporate affairs for Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Co., said he agrees with the report’s ranking of health care insurance costs as the top concern for businesses in the state.

The workers’ compensation insurer hears clients’ complaints about the cost of insurance all the time, he said, because health care costs account for about half of a typical workers’ comp claim.

Godfrey Wood, chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber, said he generally agrees with the report’s list of top challenges for the state but it could be argued that education or work force training could be higher priorities.

He also lauded the state chamber and the Maine Development Foundation for trying to set the agenda for the next governor and proposing solutions, but noted that the recommendations lack specifics.

“It’s hard to know how you attack (the priorities) without knowing where the money will come from,” said Wood, who did not attend Wednesday’s briefing but has reviewed “Making Maine Work.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done here, but there’s no money around,” he said.

Bourque, however, said he thinks that if there’s agreement on the problems that need attention, solutions can be found.

He noted that many people thought the state’s workers’ comp system was beyond fixing in the early 1990s as insurance premiums spiraled out of control and some insurers stopped writing policies. The state set up MEMIC, which has been credited with keeping insurance costs in check.

“That was a problem that we solved as a state,” he said, suggesting that model can be followed on other problems.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]


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