AUGUSTA — Gov.-elect Paul LePage told Kennebec County Chamber members Wednesday they should unite with other business leaders to improve the state’s business climate.

LePage, a Republican who will be sworn-in Jan. 5, said the only way to make effective change is if the business community speaks with “one voice.”

“We have to come together as a sector of our economy and speak with one voice,” he told a packed room at the Senator Inn. “A governor, the Senate or House cannot do it without you.”

Part of LePage’s plan is to reduce and simplify regulations that impact businesses.

Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce President Peter Thompson asked LePage cut a red ribbon before his speech as a symbolic step toward cutting red tape. After the meeting, LePage officials asked business owners for suggestions about how to improve regulatory requirements as part of a Red Tape Tour that has solicited ideas from around the state.

A relaxed and confident LePage joked with the friendly audience throughout his speech, at one point commenting that he wants to hire good people so he can golf more often.

“I don’t want to micromanage,” he said. “I haven’t golfed in two years and I intend to golf while I’m governor.”

In more serious business, LePage repeated oft-quoted statistics from the campaign trail: That Forbes Magazine recently ranked Maine 50th in business climate and that Maine was 48th in regulatory control. Maine also ranks below Massachusetts in a quality of life survey, he said.

“It would be nice if we could be in the middle of the pack and be competitive in business climate,” he said. “We have the quality of life in Maine far better than Massachusetts. All we need is to get better jobs here in the state of Maine.”

LePage is scheduled to announce his picks for the heads of Conservation and Administrative and Financial Services today, along with members of his senior staff.

When it comes to filling the Education post, he said he will require his commissioner to support school choice and charter schools.

His Department of Economic and Community Development will consist of “business account executives” who will work directly with business owners to help them comply with state law.

“Their pay is going to be incentivized,” he said. “If they find roadblocks, I will personally go to the agency and wait for the permits.”

He said he intends to follow through with one of his campaign promises to change the state motto on a sign in Kittery.

While he originally said he wanted to tear down the sign that said “Vacationland,” he said he’s willing to put another sign over the top that says: “Maine: A place to live, play, work and invest.”

He said he’s willing to work with labor unions that represent state workers and teachers, but that after 35 years of Democratic rule, it’s time to “push back.”

“We as a state, we as business people, we as chambers over the years have not worked together as one unified voice in speaking together,” he said.
Susan Cover — 620-7015
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