KENNEBUNK, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage discussed everything from methadone to Medicaid expansion to a potential film studio in Kennebunk during a stop in town Friday.
“I’m all in,” he said to Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, who asked for LePage’s help with legislation that could help make the film studio a reality in Kennebunk.
Tibbetts said the town has been in talks for about a year and a half with a number of businesses to fill out what will be the Kennebunk Eco Park, a business park located in the area of Independence Drive — among those businesses is a film studio, an organic brewery, an LED manufacturing company and a hotel.
“There is a stumbling block,” Tibbetts said.
“The Legislature,” LePage responded. “They are just so short-sighted. They are counting savings they don’t have.”
There are no incentives for film companies to locate and work in Maine, said Tibbetts, who proposed legislation that would provide a 25 percent rebate of production expenditures that are taxed by the state. Current state law provides a 10 percent rebate, Tibbetts said.
“If you’re willing to sponsor the bill, we think we can deliver parties from both sides,” said Kennebunk Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy.
Tibbetts said the production company looking to come to Kennebunk has the rights to produce more than a dozen films in Maine over the next five years and that production of one film in the state could bring in $1.5 million in revenue for the state.
LePage indicated his support for the idea.
“It’s not a cost to the state if they don’t come,” he said. “It’s only a cost if there’s revenue and it’s only giving a portion back.”
The town lost approximately 300 jobs when William Arthur, which was located in the area of the proposed Eco Park, moved its operations to Massachusetts in 2012, Tibbetts said, but with the anticipated development the town has the potential to bring hundreds of jobs back to Kennebunk.
“We looked at ‘How do we change the focus so it becomes something unique for Maine?’” Tibbetts said.
Kennebunk has beautified its downtown in recent years, Tibbetts told the governor, and while just a few years ago there were seven empty storefronts, Tibbetts said that number is dwindling. Development of the nearby Garden Street Market, which has been vacant for some time, is also in the works, Tibbetts said, with two possible interested tenants, as is a seasonal train stop, and the town is nearing final fundraising for an all-season downtown pavilion on the former Mobil station lot.
“I think it is one of the prettiest downtowns in Maine,” he said. “I think we are going to have a waiting list for space in the downtown.”
Before the meeting at Town Hall, LePage talked with employees at the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, Kennebunk Savings and Cole Harrison Insurance. At the Main Street insurance company, LePage met with employees and talked politics.
“People say you can’t run government like a business, but it’s a $6 billion business. That’s what it is,” LePage said.
The governor talked about methadone treatment for heroin addicts, which he said “is not the answer,” called Medicaid expansion “sinful,” and said Obamacare is “politics at its worst.”
“This is a legacy battle in Washington,” he said.
With a Democrat-run Legislature, LePage said, “it’s just so difficult to get them to focus on issues at hand.”
“Do you have hope?” asked Jeff Cole, owner of Cole Harrison Insurance.
“The last hope is the November election,” LePage said.