AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov.–elect Paul LePage on Tuesday pledged that his administration will craft a proposal to remove barriers that have made it difficult to do business in Maine.
“I am asking all of you to become auditors of the red tape removal process,” he said at a Tuesday forum with members of the Maine Business Association Roundtable. “I am really concerned about eliminating the red tape that is holding up development.”
LePage said his administration will use comments from the forum, written comments from business owners and further discussions with the business community to draft legislation for the new session to consider that will seek to improve the regulatory process and help spur economic growth.
“I am not saying all regulations are not needed,” he said. “If the regulations are sensible and they have a real purpose, they need to be there. But, we need to see if we can enforce them differently to speed up the process.”
LePage heard criticism of a wide range of regulations affecting retailers, manufacturers, the tourism industry, developers, builders, bankers, restaurants, doctors, insurers, car dealers and just about every other kind of business operating in the state.
“While we recognize the need for government oversight, we implore you to lead a cultural shift in how government interacts with Maine businesses,” said Scott Carlin, owner of several IGA grocery stores in Aroostook County. Several other speakers also called for a change in the “regulatory culture” to one that treats applicants as customers, not adversaries.
Several speakers were critical of the Department of Environmental Protection and how it enforces rules and regulations. Peter Daigle of Lafayette Hotels, which owns more than two dozen hotels and motels across the state, blasted DEP calling it the “granddaddy” of red tape.
“If you have a hotel on a sand dune or in a shoreland zone, it is impossible to do any improvements,” he said, “and the improvements I am talking about are things like adding an elevator to be handicapped accessible or adding handicapped accessible rooms.”
Daigle told LePage his company had tried to build a new hotel in Wells starting in 1999 and despite repeated requests did not get an answer on their permits requests until 2009, when it was denied by the DEP.
Ann Gauthier with Fairchild Semiconductor said she was pleased with the LePage initiative, saying the company had never been asked to provide information about its regulatory burden.
Lee Worcester with Smuggler’s Cove Campground in Southwest Harbor said the way applications are written for various land use permits are overly complex and confusing. He said without changes, economic growth in the state will be curtailed.
“Maine businesses are being buried under a mountain of rules and regulations,” he said.
LePage’s regulatory reform effort is being led by Ann Robinson, an attorney who co-chairs his transition group. He said they will review all of the information from the roundtable discussion and will use it in drafting his reform legislation.
“I haven’t read them all, but we already have a folder an inch thick of things that could be done to reform state government and regulations,” he said.