AUGUSTA — Maine entrepreneurs and small-business startups would get an “E-ZPass” to quickly negotiate Maine government and create jobs in a Paul LePage administration, the candidate said Monday.

The Republican gubernatorial nominee, who leads the five-candidate field according to recent polling, introduced education, welfare and government reform plans during a series of news conferences around the state.

“We’re going to take the government to a smaller government,” the Waterville mayor said. “We’re going to have a red-tape removal audit – we are going to look at all the programs in the state of Maine and we’re going to look at those that are inhibiting and putting up roadblocks. If they are effective, we’re going to streamline them, if they’re not, they are going to go away.”

LePage also said he would require Maine government to respond to new business permit requests within 90 days, initiate job impact studies for all new laws and regulations, and demand more health insurance options for Mainers.

The final piece of his jobs plan would be to replace all state government permitting fees for start-up businesses with a $5 first step fee.

“We are going to have a situation where you can start a small business in Maine by a $5 fee, not a $1,500 fee divided in 12 different permits – we are going to streamline it,” LePage said.

On education, LePage said he wants to launch a “learn to earn” initiative. His plan calls on Maine’s public colleges and universities to periodically answer four questions: How much does the school cost, how many students complete their degree programs, how many graduates become successfully employed in Maine within 12 months, and how much do they earn?

Maine’s high schools would also expand their role in Maine’s education system, in a LePage administration.

“Our program is going to offer high school students a choice: You can go four years at high school and get a diploma or go five years and get an (associate) degree,” he said. “We’re going to raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. We need to get our best and brightest out there and educated at the lowest possible cost.”

LePage said students who earn associate degrees in high school could earn undergraduate and master’s degrees in four years of college.

The campaign also laid out its plan for welfare reform, which would create a tiered benefit system so recipients wouldn’t lose all of their assistance at once, and adhere to the five-year limit for benefits that’s followed by most other states.

Government transparency is also high on his agenda, LePage said.

“I want to get a Maine-SPAN — meaning that public hearings and debates on the floor are going to be televised,” he said. “Transparency from the standpoint that my administration’s going to go to a different county and different community every month to hold a Cabinet meeting. We’re going to listen to the people.”

Mainers with Internet access can now watch all Maine House and Senate debates and listen to all legislative committee hearings and work sessions live.

LePage said his initiatives would not require any additional funding from Maine taxpayers.


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