Maine being ranked last for the second year in a row among the best states for business is a serious problem. It is a problem that deserves serious solutions, so it is discouraging that the governor’s office is using it to push an ideological agenda rather than working on such solutions.
Last week, Gov. Paul LePage told a crowd in Salem Township, in western Maine, that Forbes told his office a primary reason for the last place ranking was because of the state’s welfare and energy problems.
“They said, ‘You made some efforts and you’ve done some good things in some areas, but you absolutely ignored the structural problems.’ Which are our welfare and our energy. We did nothing,” LePage told the crowd. “And they said, ‘Unless you get your fiscal house in order, and you address energy, you address work force development, and you get yourself [so] that you spend within your means, you’re in the cellar.’ This mission here this year, you’re going to hear an awful lot of education, energy and the economy. Unfortunately, we’re starting out with welfare, because we’re going broke.”
Turns out that’s not what the folks from Forbes told the governor’s office.
“Sorry governor, but I didn’t say any of those things,” Forbes staffer Kurt Badenhausen, wrote on the magazine’s website Friday . “Welfare? Not even a part of the rankings. Getting your ‘fiscal house in order’ is sound government, but once again has nothing to do with our ranking of business climates.
“Energy costs are 31 percent above the national average in Maine, but they are high across the Northeast and I never said that was how to improve Maine’s standing.”
Mr. Badenhausen continued: “We should not be surprised at this point that a politician took one piece of information and made a giant leap to fit his particular agenda. Welfare reform was a major campaign theme in LePage’s run for governor last year and he has proposed $220 million in cuts to the state’s MaineCare insurance system.”
So what did Forbes suggest?
Mr. Badenhausen said he told the governor’s Chief of Staff John Butera that Maine’s problem was people leaving the state, business costs and a weak job and economic outlook.
Each of these is a real problem that has long demanded attention. It is where the governor and Legislature should focus their attention.