May 23, 2018
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Rotarians hear Cutler’s vision of a restructured government

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, speaking to a group of about 50 Bangor Rotary Club members Tuesday, offered his most specific proposals to date about how he would streamline aspects of state government if elected.

First, he said he would create an Office of Regulatory Review and Repeal within the governor’s office.

“It would look at every rule and regulation on the books and strip unnecessary oversight if needed,” he said.

Second, Cutler told the group he would eliminate the Board of Environmental Protection, which oversees the state Department of Environmental Protection but that also unnecessarily holds up economic development, according to Cutler.

“The board is redundant, costly, confusing and one of the reasons why people don’t want to invest in Maine anymore,” he said.

Third, Cutler said he would take the permitting and licensing functions away from the Land Use Regulation Commission and turn them over to the DEP. He would then create a Court of Appellate Review to oversee decisions made by the DEP.

Cutler referred to the Plum Creek development in Piscataquis County as an example of development being hamstrung by bureaucratic processes.

“It may have ended up with the right result,” he said of Plum Creek. “But it was a train wreck that didn’t need to happen.”

Cutler further proposed replacing the Department of Economic and Community Development with a new Department of Commerce, which also would include numerous other entities, such as the state Office of Tourism and the Maine Technology Institute.

Finally, Cutler said he would merge the functions of the state controller, the state budget office and the state’s purchasing division to create the Office of Financial Management.

“It’s not the end of the list,” he told Rotary Club members. He already has proposed merging the state’s university and community college systems and said he soon plans to roll out specific recommendations for restructuring the Department of Health and Human Services.

A Bangor native who now lives in Cape Elizabeth, Cutler previously worked for Democratic U.S. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine and Democratic President Jimmy Carter. He has been a lawyer in the private sector for many years.

A recent poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed Cutler with 16 percent support, trailing Republican Paul LePage of Waterville (38 percent) and Democrat Libby Mitchell of Vassalboro (30 percent).

Two other independents — Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover — are also on the November ballot but were not featured in the poll.

Jim Melcher, professor of government for the University of Maine at Farmington, said he was surprised Cutler didn’t make bigger gains in the latest poll. Last month’s Rasmussen survey showed Cutler with 15 percent support.

“He hasn’t made a big run yet. I’m sure he wanted to see more,” Melcher said.

As for Cutler’s latest proposals for restructuring state government, Melcher said the ideas help to steer the conversation back to where the candidate feels most comfortable. The Farmington professor said Cutler’s proposals fall into two categories: administrative streamlining and more substantive and controversial changes.

Abolishing the BEP and reducing the scope of LURC’s role fit into the latter category.

“It shows he’s not thinking business as usual, and it shows he’s willing to shake things up,” Melcher said. “I’m not sure how much the average voter understands all the details of merging the budget office with the controller’s office, but changes to the BEP and LURC would create some turf battles he’d have to deal with. Those changes might take some political capital to get done.”

Cutler also tried to make his case by contrasting his record with his opponents. Mitchell, Cutler said, is a career politician tied tightly to powerful unions who hasn’t offered ideas for change. LePage, he said, wants to change government through slash-and-burn policies.

Cutler told the Rotarians that Maine needs “a new tone at the top,” and he vowed to offer strong, honest and ethical leadership.

The Bangor Noontime Rotary plans to host additional gubernatorial candidates in the future.

Additional details about Cutler’s plans are available on his website:

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