MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA – Gov.-elect Paul LePage told Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday that they should unite with other business leaders to improve Maine’s business climate.

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

“We have to come together as a sector of our economy and speak with one voice,” he said in 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 affect businesses.

Chamber of Commerce President Peter Thompson asked LePage to 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 for improving regulatory requirements, as part of LePage’s “Red Tape Tour,” which has solicited ideas from around the state.

Relaxed and confident, LePage joked with the friendly audience throughout his breakfast speech — at one point saying 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.”

On a more serious note, LePage repeated oft-quoted statistics from the campaign: that Forbes Magazine recently ranked Maine 50th in business climate, and that Maine was 48th in regulatory control.

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

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

When it comes to the state Department of Education, 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 on 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 says “Vacationland,” he said he’s willing to put another sign over the top, saying: “Maine: A place to live, play, work and invest.”

LePage said he’s willing to work with unions that represent state workers and teachers, but after 35 years of Democratic majorities, 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.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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