Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce outlines priorities it would like Legislature to tackle

Posted Dec. 08, 2013, at 10:38 a.m.
John Porter
John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Porter

BANGOR, Maine — The Legislature will have its hands full when it convenes its next session if it’s going to tackle the gamut of requests and recommendations laid out by the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber presented its 2014 “Issues of Impact” list to the Maine Regulatory Fairness Board and several members of the Legislature during a meeting Saturday morning. The list is intended to bring lawmakers’ attention to issues chamber members see as vital to maintaining, improving and creating business in Maine, according to John Porter, the chamber’s CEO.

The Regulatory Fairness Board is a group that deals with small businesses struggling and muddling through statutory regulations. The board recommends changes to legislative groups that might ease success and growth for those businesses.

The chamber’s list, presented in a pamphlet, encompases health care reforms, energy initiatives, tax policies, education and workforce development, transportation and more.

Porter said the chamber supports the expansion of MaineCare to “fully leverage available federal dollars under the Affordable Care Act,” as well as close monitoring of any “unintended consequences” of Obamacare for small businesses.

“The chamber endorses an energy policy that makes paramount the goal of lowering the cost of power and fuel,” Porter said. “With this as a priority, it also makes sense to pursue strategic investments in alternative energy.”

The Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want to see an increase in the tax burden on Maine people and businesses. If anything, there should be a reduction, the chamber argues. High income taxes will stall business development and put a nail in the coffin of struggling business, according to Porter.

The chamber also stresses the importance of collaboration, not only among neighboring communities, but also among the state’s colleges and universities, as well as health care providers.

Porter acknowledged “Maine’s long tradition of local control,” but still the opportunities for regionalization are “tantalizing.”

Steve Ribble, a chamber member and Bangor landscape architect, asked that the Legislature carefully monitor the sale of bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway to ensure that whatever party might take the company over doesn’t proceed to shut down a portion of Maine’s rail system, potentially cutting off Bangor’s tracks to Canada.

“It’s critical that they don’t sever that line,” Ribble said, arguing that losing that rail service could stall the regions recent advancements and growth.

Members of the board said they planned on holding on to the chamber’s list and keep it in mind as issues with businesses surface.

“We need to have specific issues and regulatory concerns that we can work with,” said Doug Smith, a member of the regulatory board. Otherwise the board’s conversations become too general and unlikely to result in changes, he said.

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