At a time when Maine must reduce energy costs, improve our public education system, encourage business investment and lower the cost of delivering essential government services, our state government is too remote, too big, too unfriendly and too expensive. The next governor must make significant structural changes to bring Maine's state government into line with the best managed states in the country, to get Maine's government ready -- finally -- for the 21st century. I already have proposed the following important structural changes to our state government, but this will be just the beginning.
Tear Down the "Wall of No": The Office of Regulatory Review and Repeal (ORRR)
Maine has thousands of regulations scattered through hundreds of statutes and regulations adopted by multiple agencies over many decades. Many of these regulations were drafted to serve a narrow purpose, and many are out of date. Taken together they are complicated, confusing, and -- due to the law of unintended consequences -- often counterproductive when measured against our aspirations for a clean, competitive state economy with a strong sense of community. Like a forbidding barrier, they create a Wall of No running along the border of our state, discouraging many businesses that might otherwise come to Maine to invest and create jobs.
One of my first acts as governor will be to establish an Office of Regulatory Review and Repeal (ORRR). The ORRR will report directly to the governor, and will have two principal responsibilities: First, it will review current rules and regulations to identify those that are unnecessary, counterproductive, inefficient and ineffective -- or just don't work the way they should. We will repeal or modify those rules. And second, the ORRR will review rules and regulations that agencies and departments propose, before they take effect, to ensure that they will accomplish their purposes in the most efficient and least disruptive ways.
"Getting to Yes": The Department of Commerce and Tourism
Businesses seeking to invest in Maine must now navigate a maze of government offices and programs that are under separate supervision, some even outside the government. There should be a single port of call for potential job-creating investors in Maine. Currently they must deal separately with the Department of Economic and Community Development, the State Planning Office, the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine International Trade Center, Maine and Company, the Maine Development Foundation, and the Finance Authority of Maine.
I intend to replace the Department of Economic and Community Development with a more vigorous and better armed Department of Commerce and Tourism. We need more now than ever to be highly strategic in our approach to business development and focused on developing and investing in Maine's competitive advantages, but our current efforts are the very opposite of strategic; they are fragmented, unfocused, and inconsistent.
In addition to a stronger and better funded Office of Tourism, I want to bring into a Department of Commerce the non-regulatory activities of the State Planning Office, the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine International Trade Center, Maine and Company, the Finance Authority of Maine, the Small Enterprise Growth Fund, and the Maine Rural Development Authority.
The Department of Commerce also would include a Small Business Advocate -- a watchdog for the interests of Maine's thousands of small businesses -- and a Grants Assistance Team to help towns and cities, small businesses and entrepreneurs seek and secure financial assistance from sources ranging from the federal government to private foundations.
Putting all of these programs under one roof with a strong and experienced leader from the private sector at the helm will bring a more focused and cost-effective approach to our state's business development efforts. This new department will focus sharply on getting the most from Maine's competitive advantages, and building the Maine brand in a coherent strategic way, for the benefit of all Maine businesses. It would also be a single entry point for all investors seeking to create jobs in Maine, with a culture and the authority to help those investors "get to yes". The creation of this Office would send a strong signal that "Maine is open for business again."
Office of Financial Management
The Office of Financial Management will consolidate the State Controller, Budget Office and Purchasing Division under one roof.
At a time of extraordinary financial stress, we need to make sure that all of the state's resources are being optimally managed and utilized, throughout the state's entire financial cycle. We need to be capable of implementing zero-based budgeting across the entire state government, preparing a comprehensive capital budget and managing our cash wisely and well.
End Double Jeopardy: Strengthen the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
After the enactment of the original Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, which I helped write when I worked for Maine's Senator Ed Muskie, states established departments to administer the newly delegated responsibilities. Because this was a new field, many states also installed supervisory citizens' boards to oversee the work of the departments. Unlike most states, Maine still retains its Board Environmental Protection (BEP).
The BEP has the power to re-examine final decisions of the DEP, and this re-examination can include what the lawyers call "de novo" review, in other words the parties could potentially have to start the process all over again at the beginning. Forcing business investors to play "double jeopardy" in Maine adds a layer of uncertainty and potential for delay and additional expense for all parties (opponents and advocates). And there is no reason to think that having two separate bodies with the same powers to deny or approve projects for environmental reasons is sensible, that it adds opportunities for citizen involvement that otherwise would be lacking or that it produces better results for the environment. That is why almost no other states have retained this structure.
I have proposed that we strengthen the Department of Environmental Protection by concentrating in it the sole initial decision authority for environmental permits. Its decisions, as now, would need public participation and transparency of process. As governor, I will ensure that the DEP has the professional and technical resources to do its job to the highest scientific and ethical standards. For fairness and due process, I will propose the creation of a professional and technically competent three person panel or environmental law court, to review any decisions of the DEP that are appealed by the applicants. Decisions by that appellate entity could then be appealed directly to Maine Supreme Court without the additional layer of the BEP. As governor, with my strong personal history of commitment to rigorous environmental protection, I will ensure that the new system protects our precious landscape and waterways, while being open to well conceived economic development.
LURC: Separate planning from enforcement
I have long believed that planning functions should not be co-located in government agencies with licensing and permitting functions. LURC should retain the planning responsibilities for Maine's townships, plantations and unorganized areas, the majority of which are forestlands, but the Cutler Administration will transfer the regulatory (licensing and permitting) functions currently lodged in LURC to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Put DHHS to Work
As noted in my policy proposal "Welfare: How Maine Should Work", we need a welfare system in Maine that has integrity for taxpayers and recipients alike, and that does not feed a culture of dependency, while assuring efficient and outcome based services to the needy. It should transition people who are capable of working quickly and effectively from government assistance to gainful employment. Currently, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) manages a caseload for many hundreds of thousands of Mainers through some 7,000 contract parties. In many cases this places a great burden on those seeking assistance, for instance a single mother seeking education, training or employment while also seeking adequate housing, food and healthcare for her children. The large number of providers also makes it difficult for DHHS to effectively monitor eligibility rules. Some people slip through the cracks -- the truly needy aren't helped and the undeserving take advantage of the system. Contributing to this problem is a lack of coordination between the four departments that should be cooperating closely, namely, DHHS, Department of Education, Department of Labor, and Department of Corrections.
I will appoint as head of DHHS a person with deep experience in running complex institutions, compassion for the most needy, and a commitment to the dignity of work for those who are able. My appointed commissioner will perform a top to bottom review of DHHS and change its culture. The new performance based measures for DHHS will include transition to work success rates, and Maine's performance must be clearly compared to the performance of other states, based on commonly reported federal statistics. My new commissioner will chair an ad hoc committee made up of the commissioners of DHHS, Department of Labor, Department of Education and Department of Corrections, to ensure a coordinated approach to transitioning able-bodied Mainers to gainful employment.
Rebuild Higher Education in Maine
Maine's entire structure of managing higher education has not been examined in 40 years. It is fragmented, uncoordinated and filled with duplication. Currently, oversight for higher education in the state is a "house divided" -- split between two boards of trustees, one for University of Maine System (UMS) and one for the community college system. University facilities and community colleges are scattered about the state, often with duplicative faculties and specialties, a serious strain on resources in a relatively poor state with a dispersed population. Our educational system is also a house where there is no clear connection between the lower and upper floors: Pre-K-12 education is totally separated from post-secondary education. The result for too many students is that high school is a dead end, and innovation is often met with resistance and obstruction.
I will establish a Governor's Commission on Higher Education, and task it to consider the following possibilities:
* Combining the two boards of UMS and the community college system into a single board reporting to the Commissioner of Education.
* Granting the Commissioner of Education to have authority over K -- 20 education
* Concentrating specialties in appropriate campus locations -- for instance foreign languages in one place, graduate studies in another, math and science in another.
* Commencing a ten-year program of investment in Maine's human capital -- in a strategic, focused, consistent and sustained way.
* Exploring innovation in school organization, teaching methods, performance measures, curriculum, teaching incentives, and school funding -- to ensure that we increase learning opportunities for every person in Maine, whatever their age, wherever they live, to improve their knowledge, their skills and their economic well being.