By Governor Paul R. LePage
When our nation was reeling through one of the worst economic periods since the Great Depression, Democrats in Congress rammed through an $800 billion so-called “stimulus” bill that they said would create jobs and prevent unemployment rates from exceeding 8.5%. They were wrong, and Democrats have yet to learn from that lesson.
Today, we have a so-called jobs bill that is more of the same: the same spending that failed us the first time. We have a Congress that can’t settle on anything, and as a result we have a deficit we are drowning in. So how do we successfully build our economy?
First, we must give our small businesses the chance to succeed. There was a familiar tone at all three of my job-creation workshops, the third of which was held at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. During these sessions, I heard from hundreds of business leaders from mom-and-pop shops to large companies. The recurring message was one of relief that business finally has a voice in Augusta.
For our economy to rebound, we as policy makers must help job creators. I’m being told that we must better prepare our students for the jobs of today, evaluate regulations that hinder job growth and lower the costs of doing business in our state. These are the things we must address for our economy to prosper.
In January, my administration will unveil an education plan that will point us in a new direction. It’s a direction that focuses on both students and teachers. We want the best for both, and Education Commissioner Stephen L. Bowen is working hard to see that our teachers have access to the tools they need to prepare our future generation to succeed.
I was told by Bill Cohen of Verso Papers that by 2017, 45% of their workforce in Bucksport and Jay will be at retirement age. These are high-paying jobs, upwards of $60,000 a year, but the paper industry is not one that’s highly valued or pushed as a career path. I hope to encourage our teachers and guidance counselors to explore what the pulp and paper industry has to offer our students—there is a lot of opportunity there.
My approach to regulation is that we must base it on sound science to achieve goals that are technically feasible. Following this simple guideline will protect against job-killing intrusions into small businesses. In the coming months, you will continue to see state agencies work to improve efficiency and streamline government.
During a recent visit to Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, the general manager shared with me that their hazardous waste is inspected by the state every single day. The state’s regulations are stricter than the federal governments. And to what cost?
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted because of the state’s over-reaching law. By conforming to the national standard, which requires weekly inspections, it would allow Pratt & Whitney to save money that could be invested into job creation.
The third concern reiterated at the jobs conferences was about lowering the overall costs of doing business. One of the top expenditures, I’m told, is spent on energy. We are among the highest-paying states in the nation for electricity. If we continue on this same path, we will continue to stifle job creation.
The upcoming legislative session will test the will of our policy makers. It will demonstrate who is willing to help get the economy back on its feet by lowering energy costs by looking at all of our options, rather than by limiting them. Government must allow businesses to be competitive. If we fail them, our economy will not revive itself.
Economic freedom expands the prosperity pie; government can only divide it up. That is why I will advance an agenda that promotes education and advocates lower taxes, reasonable regulation and smaller, smarter government. Government can’t do it alone, though.
While businesses now have an advocate in me, I still need your help. I urge the business community and the hard-working families of Maine to write me. Tell me what I can do to help your business succeed. Your ideas will continue to be heard by me, my staff and my commissioners, and I will do my best to convince the Legislature to listen too.
Go to my website, Maine.gov/Governor, for our mailing address or a link to my email. It was Calvin Coolidge who said, “The business of America is business.” It’s time we allow the private sector to do what they do best.
I am asking you to work with me because, together, we can turn Maine around.