BANGOR, Maine — Solutions to the state’s worst problems shouldn’t originate from anyone in a leadership position.
That’s the opinion of Kevin Scott, who spoke to the Bangor Rotary Club on Tuesday about his bid to be Maine’s next governor.
“In order to transform the place we’re in today, we need to move away from leaders who set the agenda,” said Scott, one of three independents seeking election to Maine’s highest elected office. “The best agendas are the ones that are out there [in the public].”
Scott, a western Maine native and business owner who so far is running his campaign on a limited budget, has ideas of his own. But he sees the role of the state’s chief executive as searching for solutions from people who might otherwise be overlooked. That approach, he said, will pull more people into the governmental process and eliminate some of the acrimony that has plagued the halls of the State House.
Scott said he has seen blame for the state’s problems laid unfairly at the feet of welfare recipients, state workers, the unions, teachers and numerous other entities.
“I intend to transform that atmosphere and work toward inclusiveness,” said Scott. “We need to stop the scapegoating and finger-pointing. We need a new look at these problems through a fresh set of eyes.”
Scott, who holds a degree in government and politics, is the founder of Recruiting Resources International, an employment firm that links engineering professionals with U.S.-based companies.
Scott is also chairman of the Andover Water District’s board of trustees. He said he has already logged some 30,000 driving miles during his campaign since January, though he acknowledged he is operating on a tiny budget compared to the other candidates. That will change as Election Day draws closer — even if Scott has to donate funds to his own campaign, he said.
“We’ll be on the air in the fall, one way or another,” he said.
Scott, speaking during a lunch meeting of the Rotary, outlined his “three-point plan” should he become governor.
The first phase of his plan consists of reducing the size of state government by instituting a voluntary 32-hour workweek for state employees. Scott said he has heard mixed reactions about this proposal, though he said he is usually able to convince people of its merits if they’ll listen to his argument.
If 3,000 of Maine’s approximately 17,000 employees take advantage of the proposal, the state budget will save more than $25 million a year, said Scott.
“A lot of employees I’ve talked with love this idea,” he said. “I bet seven out of 10 state employees will support it.”
The second prong of Scott’s council is the creation of a business council that works closely with the governor’s office. This builds on Scott’s belief that the most innovative proposals come from the private sector, not from inside government.
“The solutions to many of the problems we face today are here in this room,” said Scott to his audience of a few dozen Rotary members. “There are answers out there.”
A third major goal of Scott’s candidacy is to audit state government and services in search of efficiencies and programs that aren’t worth the money that’s being spent on them.
In response to a question from the audience about what he would do about the state’s massive debt to the state’s retirement system, Scott wasn’t specific other than to say the state ought to structure future employees’ pension benefits in a way that “won’t create a liability for the state.”
This could mean reducing or eliminating the state’s contributions to employees’ pension accounts. Though he admitted that a proposal like this might cost him votes, Scott said the point is to more closely align state benefits with what are available in the private sector.
“It’s not about making friends,” he said. “It’s about the solutions.”
In response to another question, Scott said he’d like to explore privatizing some government functions, such as various arms of the Department of Transportation — but not with sweeping overhauls, such as Gov. John Baldacci’s school administration consolidation. Instead, Scott said he would champion pilot projects to find out what works and what doesn’t.
“It doesn’t do us a lot of good to argue about privatization versus government with the choices being 100 percent either way,” he said. “Trying things incrementally is the way to move forward with success or failure.”
David Green, the Bangor Rotary Club’s president, said Scott’s ambition came through clearly.
“His values are certainly in the right place,” said Green. “He wants to make a difference. That sounds like a good thing, but it’s probably going to be a very difficult thing to do. There are so many practices that are ingrained in Augusta that will be difficult to change.”
Green said all five gubernatorial candidates have agreed to speak to the Bangor Rotary. Independent Eliot Cutler spoke Aug. 17. Independent Shawn Moody is scheduled for Sept. 7, and Republican Paul LePage, Oct. 5. Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell has agreed to speak to the group, but Green said her appearance has not yet been scheduled.
The Bangor Rotary Club meets at noon Tuesdays at Wellman Commons, located at 300 Union St. in Bangor.