WINTERPORT — Since returning to my home state following 20 years of active-duty Navy service and two years of civil service in aviation systems acquisitions, I have often been disheartened by much of the politics and many of the policies that frequently seem to fall short of the best interests of everyday Mainers.

Growing up in Maine, I came to believe the most important thing to most Mainers was the ability to put a roof over family members’ heads, meals on the table and heat in the home. Most everyone was more than willing to put in a hard day’s work toward meeting these modest ambitions. I do not believe this has changed.

Having returned to Maine in June 2014, I arrived during campaign season. A common theme among candidates was the importance of growing jobs in the state. Almost two years later, though, there is little to show toward those stated goals.

Maine’s poverty rate is over 14 percent, we are 12th in the nation for food insecurity (the term for undependable access to affordable, nutritious food) and 24 percent of our children live in food-insecure households. These facts do not demonstrate economic improvement.

In January, the non-seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate in Maine was 4.6 percent. This is slightly lower than the national average.

However, if we remove the southernmost four counties from this calculation, the average unemployment rate jumps to almost 5.5 percent for the remaining 12 counties. Compare this to our next-door neighbor, New Hampshire, whose non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was only 3.2 percent during the same period.


These statistics are why I am concerned that roughly 40 percent of our state contracts go to out-of-state businesses.

In January, state Sen. Tom Saviello proposed a common-sense bill, L.D. 1525, “An Act To Encourage the Purchase of Products Made in Maine and in the United States and To Give Preference to Maine Businesses When Awarding Contracts.”

As originally presented, this measure, which has received minimal publicity, would have given preference in government contracts and acquisitions to businesses “… whose principal place of business is located in the state and that pays a majority of its payroll to residents of the state,” as long as the price is no more than 5 percent higher than competitors’ prices.

This preference would amount to additional business conducted between state agencies and in-state businesses. Businesses hire additional workers when demand increases, so an increase in Maine business leads to an increase in Maine jobs. L.D. 1525 addresses the root cause of the aforementioned statistics: a lack of good jobs.

Much to my dismay, this bill is stalled in the State and Local Government Committee. It was voted on in committee Feb. 17, resulting in a divided report supporting two different amendments whose language is still under review.

Sadly, Saviello has presented an amendment that does little to maintain the intent of his original bill and removes the preference toward Maine businesses.


His amendment strikes the title and content of the bill and inserts content strikingly similar to that found in an executive order signed by Gov. LePage in April 2012, which requires contracts in excess of $100,000 to “include scoring criteria evaluating the responding bidder’s economic impact on the Maine economy and state revenues.” Nowhere does it establish how this impact will be scored in the bid.

The opposing amendment, submitted by state Rep. Jared Golden, will leave committee as the majority report.

Golden’s amendment adds language supporting the establishment of a procurement review board and requires the board to review contracts expected to exceed $1 million. This proposal will be beneficial in achieving quality assurance and ethics in high-value contracts while maintaining the original intent of L.D. 1525.

Similar to the original Maine proposal, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Historically Underutilized Business Zone Program gives preference to businesses located in high-unemployment or low-income areas, as long as the price is no more than 10 percent higher than competitors’. HUBZone, as the program is known, has a proven record of accomplishment and is an example of how contract preferences can kindle business growth in targeted areas.

I urge each of you to join me in contacting our elected officials and asking them to support the amendment offered by Rep. Golden in an effort to grow Maine jobs so that more Maine families can meet those modest ambitions.

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