The legislative session just got underway in Augusta and already House Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson are playing partisan politics by launching a broadside against Bath Iron Works. I am deeply disappointed Maine’s presiding officers would threaten the livelihoods of area residents and the economic viability of my community just to score political points.

As state senator, I sponsored the Shipbuilding Facility Credit Act in 1997 to encourage General Dynamics to invest in Maine and to allow BIW to compete for Navy contracts with Mississippi’s Ingalls Shipyard.

Mississippi heavily subsidizes its shipyard and creates an uneven playing field when it comes to bidding. The tax credits were to level the playing field and allow BIW to be competitive. The Legislature made sure to put their qualifications in the legislation  before it was passed. Bath Iron Works exceeded its statutory obligation of $200 million by investing over $500 million in its facilities since the original tax credit was passed.

When the 1997 tax credit expired, an  overwhelming majority of Maine legislators voted to extend the law reducing Bath Iron Works’ tax obligation by $3 million annually over 15 years. In return, BIW’s parent company, General Dynamics, pledged to invest $100 million in the shipyard in the first 10 years, employ at least 5,000 workers and pay above-average wages. Not only do BIW workers and their communities benefit from this, but so do the 300 businesses across the state that provide $45 million in goods and services to BIW.

It is good policy to make sure the terms are being kept but poor form to accuse bad practice without actually speaking with the company and getting the real story. The company is upholding its end of the agreement. The shipyard currently employs 6,700 workers – an increase of 1,100 since 2017 – and has plans to hire another 1,000 workers this year.

The average annual wage for all workers at BIW is over $60,000. Production workers average $53,000 and get benefits such as health insurance, pension and 401(k).

Any observant person can see the signs advertising open hiring around the region, in the papers and on virtually every employment website. To guarantee workers have the necessary skills for crucial jobs there is a site at the Brunswick Landing that is training workers for jobs at BIW. They are also partnering with Loring Job Corps and Southern Maine Community College to provide training for students in Sen. Jackson’s district in Aroostook County. Once they complete their training, they will be offered full-time, good-paying jobs at Bath Iron Works.

BIW is the lifeblood of the midcoast and pays millions of dollars in local and state taxes. The tax credit is essential to keeping BIW competitive as it bids on Navy contracts. Rep. Gideon, who wants to challenge U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, sees political opportunity in driving a wedge between the company and its workforce. If she and Sen. Jackson follow through on their political threat, however, the jobs of BIW’s hardworking employees could be jeopardized. This appears to be a unilateral decision made without seeking input from area legislators or even co-sponsors of the most recent tax credit.

What a stark contrast to the shipyard’s chief defender, Sen. Collins. Within just the past month, she secured funding for new destroyers and with Sen. Angus King is fighting the Pentagon’s proposal to reduce the number of Navy ships being built – a move that defense analysts say would be “really devastating” to BIW. Sen. Collins has consistently been there for BIW at every turn.

By contrast, throwing out specious arguments against BIW is not going to help them win Navy contracts and keep good paying jobs in Maine. Maine workers have too much to lose to allow Bath Iron Works to become a political football for political gain.


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