SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Republican gubernatorial candidate Les Otten gathered supporters and members of the media Tuesday to unveil what he called “a bold plan to fix Maine’s economy.”
Otten, one of seven candidates vying for the GOP nomination in the June 8 primary, identified six initiatives he said would accomplish his goal of creating more jobs.
The initiatives involve overhauling Maine’s tax system, reforming welfare, lowering the cost of health care, reducing government spending and streamlining regulatory barriers, exploring new energy projects and improving the state’s education system.
“My top priority as governor will be squarely on creating new employment opportunities,” said Otten during a press conference at the Sable Oaks Marriott Hotel in South Portland. “The six things I’ve outlined do not cost money. I don’t need to put my hand in your wallet to change the way we do business in Maine.”
Jobs is a theme also trumpeted by other GOP contenders, who include Steve Abbott, Bill Beardsley, Matt Jacobson, Paul LePage, Peter Mills and Bruce Poliquin.
Jacobson says his plan for “a new Maine … starts with the premise that attracting, creating and keeping jobs in Maine is the foundation for bringing hope and prosperity back to our state.” Mills, meanwhile, says his work as a legislator helped preserve or create thousands of jobs.
The jobs theme also dominated the closing days of the legislative session this month when a Democratic-backed bond issue promoted as a job-creating initiative encountered fierce Republican opposition before a compromise was worked out and a scaled-down $57.8 million package was sent to voters.
It came up as the state struggled to regain its fiscal footing amid the recession, which robbed revenues from the budget and put thousands of Mainers out of work.
Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, who pressed for the bond package, is one of five Democrats talking jobs as they compete for their party’s gubernatorial nomination on June 8.
Rosa Scarcelli has released a five-step plan to create 50,000 jobs, and Pat McGowan points to his job-creating efforts as a former regional Small Business Administration director. Economy and jobs are listed as top campaign issues for Steve Rowe, and John Richardson plans to release an economic development plan Wednesday.
Along with Otten’s announcement on Tuesday, he released four documents that outline his positions and goals regarding energy policy, tax policy, the tourism industry and the state’s shrinking population.
Many of the initiatives focus on improving the business climate, including eliminating the state’s capital gains and estate taxes and rewriting a range of regulations on businesses and commerce that Otten said “is killing our jobs.”
Asked after his Tuesday press conference what his first steps as governor would be in terms of creating jobs, Otten said he would write a biennial state budget that includes funding for numerous specific initiatives.
Among those would be allowing charter schools in Maine, which would make the state eligible for increased federal funding. He said he also would scrutinize state government department by department in search of efficiencies.
“We audit our government every year,” said Otten. “What we don’t do is respond to auditors’ suggestions.”
Otten’s four new position papers can be viewed at his website, www.lesotten.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.