BANGOR, Maine — Rising health care and energy costs are slowly squeezing the profits from Irv Marsters’ business.
In the 12 years he has owned Bangor Letter Shop, Marsters’ electricity costs have risen about 50 percent and his health care costs for him and his 10 workers have about doubled, he said.
And the profit pinch comes with new work harder to find for his printing and direct mail shop.
“We’re struggling to keep our workforce employed,” Marsters said Wednesday. “We haven’t hired anybody new in 10 years and two [workers] have left.”
Close to a dozen other Bangor businessmen told 2nd Congressional District candidate Kevin Raye during a campaign stop Wednesday that they, too, are pressed by health care and energy costs plus government overregulation.
A Republican and president of the Maine Senate, Raye touted some of his successes in the Legislature as indications of the job he would do in Congress. They included helping pass legislation that broadened tax credits given to transportation companies to help Cyr Bus Lines use more new buses in-state, Raye said.
“Maine is all about small businesses,” said Raye, who who co-owns Raye’s Mustard Mill in Eastport with his wife, Karen. “If small businesses in Maine are going to succeed, we have to reduce the tax burdens they face and give them confidence to reinvest in themselves.”
Raye contrasted the 100 percent approval rating he received from the National Federation of Independent Business, which claims more than 3,500 members in Maine, with the zero percent rating the group gave incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Raye’s opponent in the 2nd District.
Michaud spokesman Dan Cashman dismissed NFIB as “interested in partisan wrangling rather than representing small businesses.”
“Their agenda has become decidedly more partisan with the likes of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS funding the group to the tune of $3.7 million,” Cashman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “Over the past fifteen years, 90 percent of NFIB support has gone to Republicans. NFIB members have been made plainly aware of this fact which explains why their membership of actual small businesses has plummeted, from 600,000 members in 2006 to just 350,000 today.”
Several small-business-friendly bills that Michaud supported, including efforts to streamline public investment in private business and to improve trade with China, were not ranked by the NFIB evaluation, Cashman said.
Meanwhile, Congress passed a provision that Michaud advocated to update Small Business Administration loans while cutting loan application fees, which dramatically boosted loans in Maine, Cashman said.
Michaud and Raye are both making Maine business a priority this week. Raye, who was named one of the GOP’s Young Guns in July, met with NFIB members in Bangor at Marster’s shop and in Auburn as part of a campaign swing through the district on Wednesday.
Michaud, a Democrat from East Millinocket, plans to meet with businesspeople in Lewiston and Auburn on Thursday and in Oxford on Friday.
Raye will be making campaign stops the rest of the week and attending legislative sessions, he said.