Speech Delivered at DeLorme Map Store in Yarmouth
It is time for a new understanding between Maine government and job creators. As I share my perspective concerning Maine's future, I believe what is most needed is a change in attitude. As Governor, I - and the people who work for me - will work with job creators in a spirit of humility, predictability, and partnership.
First, we need a political leadership that understands that it does not create jobs - employers do. There are thousands of Mainers who have invested their time, talent, energy and family "nest eggs" in Maine's future. Businesses from the Farmington Diner to Hancock Lumber to Barber Foods to DeLorme share this in common. We need to respect this extraordinary commitment, not look down our noses suspiciously at these fine people. They are the ones whose leadership and dedication have created and sustained job opportunities for Maine citizens. They know what they are up against in a global economy. They are the ones bearing the costs and the risk. Maine government ought to have a measure of humility in the face of such dedication.
As a parent, a teacher, a coach and a senator, I have always considered that my word is my bond. As Governor, I will be no different. Honesty and follow-through are necessary characteristics of leadership. You cannot inspire people with an overpromising and underdelivering of commitments. People making long-term investments and creating jobs need to know what will be the costs and the rules. A state government that changes the rules in the middle of the game injects uncertainty and drives up costs. It makes job creators hesitant to make investments in people and property. Maine government needs to create an atmosphere of predictability and reduce risk, not increase it.
If Maine government wants to stimulate job creation, it must listen to and support those who do it. I am using my campaign for Governor as an opportunity to hear directly from job creators the best ways state government can support their efforts. We all want lower taxes, lower energy costs, lower workers' compensation rates, for example - but how will we get the biggest return for supporting job creation? I also know from personal experience that Maine government has important roles to play in both K-12 and post-secondary education, research and development investments and streamlining regulations. These challenges must be met by the partnership of Maine government and job creators.
Therefore, as Governor, I intend to:
Support the gradual elimination of the personal property tax on business equipment in order to create a more fertile environment for those businesses who wish to invest in the future of Maine. A critical part of this proposal will be for the municipalities to be made whole. There must be a renewed sense of partnership and trust among government, employers and the citizens of Maine.
Initiate income tax reform by reducing the top marginal rate of 8.5% and increasing the minimum taxable income through economic growth and prudent government spending. We have, for too long, taxed those who are least able to afford being taxed. Reducing the rate and increasing the minimum threshold will allow more Mainers to work without being penalized for improving their financial condition.
Introduce legislation which will conform our tax law with Federal statute, particularly as it relates to investments. Maine should not distinguish itself by having a higher state-imposed cost of capital than other states. Employers need a sense of predictability and will achieve it with this tax conformity.
Help lower the cost of energy for Maine's citizens by supporting expanded Research and Development and Applied Technological research in the private sector. This private sector research has been proven to bring a significant return on investments and will result in both new and improved renewable energy sources.
Lower the cost of workers' compensation. The system must be able to consistently function well for both workers and employers while maintaining an emphasis on safety in the workplace. Limiting litigation should always be a priority.
Re-introduce legislation which creates a statewide Pine Tree Zone, thereby helping to eliminate unfair incentives and government control of those incentives. The current Pine Tree Zones exempt many businesses from the opportunity to invest in Maine and create more jobs. All businesses, those currently in Maine and those seeking to locate here, should be afforded the opportunity for success. This legislation will create a more meaningful partnership between employers and state government.
The new millennium brings with it challenges for Maine and our economy. We must be prepared to meet those challenges by having a tax policy that allows Mainers to find employment and keep more of their paycheck. We must create an environment where employers view Maine as a predictable and reliable place to locate a business, create jobs and invest in the future. The global market necessitates that we more aggressively legislate and promote a Maine which is truly, "Open for Business."