Gov. Paul LePage says “small businesses are the backbone of our economy.” He’s right.
He’s running for re-election on the premise that “actions speak louder than words.” Right again.
Based on the rhetoric, you’d expect LePage to take whatever action he can to help the state’s small businesses. That expectation, however, would be wrong.
LePage on Tuesday again defied common sense with one of his 179 vetoes. The Republican governor rejected one of six bond issues passed by the Legislature in an effort to make crucial investments in the state’s economy while taking advantage of low interest rates.
While he signed off on two bond measures worth $13 million to be awarded on a synthetically competitive basis for predetermined projects, LePage rejected $12 million earmarked for two programs run by the Finance Authority of Maine that help small businesses gain access to capital.
At a time when small businesses are finding it difficult to secure capital, the bond would provide $4 million for a loan insurance program that has proven to deliver a return on investment to the state in terms of funds leveraged from other sources and increased state revenues. It would also provide $8 million for the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program, which lends to businesses with less than $5 million in sales. The larger the project, the more money the loan fund requires businesses to leverage from other sources. The program has helped create 6,071 jobs since its 1993 inception and preserve 4,438 more, according to FAME.
“We must get off the routine of borrowing for everything,” LePage wrote in his veto message, in which he noted he supports the $4 million loan insurance portion. The $8 million portion, however, “does not yield the highest return on Maine taxpayer’s [sic] investment,” he wrote.
We would agree that the bond package passed by the Legislature is far from perfect. At the same time, it contains investment Maine can’t afford not to make.
The $12 million small-business loan measure passed by veto-proof margins in its first go-around. Maine lawmakers should stick to their original votes, override LePage’s veto and allow this bond issue to make its way to the voters.