AUGUSTA

With Democrats in solid control of the Legislature again, many in the business community say they’re worried that what they considered business-friendly legislation passed by a Republicancontrolled Legislature will be undone.

The new Democratic leaders say they should not be worried.

“There is a concern out there, I hear it,” said Chris Hall, vice president of the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce, who cautioned those in the business community that repeal of regulatory reform or tax cuts would be hard to accomplish even if Democrats wanted to.

“The governor still has the veto power and I don’t see him changing his mind on these issues of importance to the business community,” Hall said.

 

 

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“Regulatory reform was a bipartisan effort,” he said,” I don’t think you will see the Democrats seeking to undo something they were a part of creating.”

But he agreed with Hall there are concerns Democrats will seek to undo some of the “progress” made under the GOP. Connors said many in the business community believe Republicans are more “business friendly” than Democrats.

David Clough, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said “there is talk of paid family leave and paid sick leave, and bumping the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and an increase in unemployment benefits.”

Such proposals have prompted “widespread concern” among business leaders, he said.

Incoming Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, responded by saying he is a small-business owner and a “pro-capital Democrat.”

He said Democrats will be there to help create jobs with a better business climate, and that current policies are not generating the economic growth the state needs.

“We will work to make sure people know Maine is a good place to invest in,” Alfond said.

Newly elected Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said the business community should look to the track record of Democrats and not preconceived opinions.

Goodall worked on the bipartisan regulatory reforms that passed and said both parties deserve credit for reducing the regulatory burden on business.

“Regulatory reform is a good example of what we hope to accomplish going forward this session in making a better business climate and encouraging growth,” he said. “There is much common ground.”

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, the newly elected House majority leader, agreed but said there are areas of disagreement with Republicans, such as with insurance law changes and tax cuts.

“It should be very clear to everyone that Democrats want taxes that are fair to the middle class, and right now they are not,” he said. “We will be looking at making the tax code fairer.”

Berry said it is premature to say that means that upperincome Mainers will be asked to pay more in taxes. He said it is also likely some of what Republicans call health insurance reform will face changes.

“Public Law 90 was very detrimental to a lot of small businesses,” he said. “That law fundamentally picked winners and losers and, as Democrats, we believe in a level playing field for all.”

Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, the newly elected House minority leader, said the concerns raised by those in the business community are legitimate. But, he said the bipartisan work on the budgets last session shows the parties can work together.

“I think the tax cut package we passed was a good one. “ he said, “We removed 70,000 people from the tax rolls and reduced one of the highest marginal (income) tax rates in the nation.”

Fredette also said it is premature to discuss changing the health insurance legislation because not all of its provisions have taken effect.

MAL LEARY is editor at Capitol News Service.


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