Political opponents of Republican Gov. Paul LePage seized on new federal economic data to claim that the incumbent governor’s economic policies are not working.

LePage’s campaign countered that thousands of jobs had been created under the governor’s watch, and the unemployment rate has dropped. Further improvement, the campaign said, has been thwarted by Democratic opposition.

According to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maine continues to lag behind the rest of New England and the nation when it comes to growth of the gross domestic product, which is considered a primary economic indicator since it measures the total value of goods and services produced in the economy.

Ranked 41st in the nation, Maine’s GDP grew by 0.9 percent in 2013, while the rest of New England grew 1.3 percent and the national GDP grew at 1.7 percent.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud attributed the slow growth to LePage’s “failed leadership and divisive policies.”

“Maine has incredible potential. I know that by working together we can move this state forward and strengthen our economy throughout all of Maine – including our rural and our urban areas,” Michaud said in a written statement. “(Le-Page has) turned his back on rural Maine and left jobs on the table.”

Michaud believes that investments in agriculture, tourism, broadband technology and renewable energy could bolster the rural economy.

Independent Eliot Cutler cited the new federal data, as well as a new ranking by Business Insider that rates Maine’s economy 47th in the nation, in calling on LePage to “step aside.”

“Behind these anemic numbers are Maine people who can’t find jobs and businesses that are struggling just to get by,” Cutler said in a written statement. “Paul LePage just hasn’t gotten the job done, and it’s time for him to step aside and let someone take charge who has real management experience and a real plan to grow our economy.”

Included in Cutler’s plan are investments in roads and bridges, in communications infrastructure and in workforce training. He also talked about doing a better job promoting the Maine brand.

Cutler, who has experience in the private and public sectors but has never held elective office, also took an opportunity to take a swing at Michaud. He said when independent Angus King was governor, Maine’s economy was on par with Massachusetts and ahead of Vermont and Connecticut.

“It’s clear that what we have today under Gov. LePage isn’t working and the kind of leadership that Mike Michaud is offering will simply take us back to what didn’t work before under (Democratic) Gov. (John) Baldacci,” Cutler said.

LePage campaign spokesman Alex Willette defended the governor’s economic record, noting that 20,000 private sector jobs have been created and the unemployment rate has dropped 2 percentage points. However, Democrats thwarted LePage’s efforts to create “Open for Business Zones,” which he said would have boosted GDP.

LePage’s proposal would have offered tax incentives for big companies and weakened unions.

“Gov. LePage has successfully worked to get Maine’s economy turned around from its low point under Baldacci,” Willette said in a written statement.

“Unfortunately Michaud’s Democrats in the Legislature opposed reform instead of working with the Governor to move Maine forward. As the only candidate for Governor who has spent most of his lifetime creating jobs and growing Maine’s economy, Gov. LePage looks forward to continue digging Maine out of the large hole it was in when he took office.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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