AUGUSTA, Maine — The two top contenders in the race for the Blaine House on Monday outlined their plans to help businesses and create jobs in Maine’s tough economic climate.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage outlined his plan to “turn the page” in Maine by reducing administrative red tape, reforming welfare and improving the state’s educational system.
Democratic contender Libby Mitchell, meanwhile, unveiled her own jobs creation plan that focuses on investment and growing the “green energy economy.”
During press conferences in Bangor and Augusta, LePage pledged that, if elected, he would work to make the state more business friendly through expedited permitting and predicted that entrepreneurs could start seeing a difference in the way the state operates by next spring.
“We want agencies to become business friendly, not adversarial to the private sector,” LePage said.
He called for expanding the college-level classes offered by high schools in order to allow students to receive a diploma and an associate’s degree in five years for free.
LePage also called for greater availability of online courses offered through the state’s universities and community colleges and a stronger vocational training program for students who are not college bound.
On the issue of welfare, LePage reiterated his campaign pledge to put in place a five-year cap on welfare benefits as well as a tiered benefit payment system that encourages people to go back to work.
LePage’s plan did not identify specific areas of state government he would cut. But the candidate said his administration would conduct a top-down review of every agency and is already preparing its own list of recommended budget reductions in time for next year’s budget-drafting session in the Legislature.
“My intent is very clear: to make government more efficient and to shrink government,” LePage said. “We did it in Waterville.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, held her own press conference in Bangor on Monday to unveil her plan to create jobs and encourage economic development.
Mitchell’s plan includes modernizing and expanding Maine’s Seed Capital Investment Tax Credit, which offers investors tax credits for money they provide to eligible businesses.
Mitchell said her administration also would implement a “Rapid Response Program” to identify and assist businesses that are in trouble. She also called for the establishment of a “Management in Maine” program to provide management and training skills to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
She called for additional bonds for critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges and railways. And she said the state should make additional investments in the “green economy” and weatherization efforts, thereby creating jobs and reducing energy usage.
Mitchell also proposed a “Farm and Bait to Plate Program” that would require schools, prisons and state facilities to acquire at least 25 percent of their food from local sources.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler dismissed LePage’s plan as “little more than bullet points, slogans and sound bites.” He said LePage was promising tax breaks and additional tax cuts for businesses at a time when the state faces a $1 billion shortfall.
“There are no new ideas in here, and Maine voters would be smart to just turn the page, period,” Cutler said in a statement.