The second regular session of the 127th Maine Legislature is fast approaching, and as we look ahead it’s clear we have a lot of work to do to turn Maine’s economy around.

As legislators, we should be focused on creating jobs and lowering the tax burden on all Mainers. I believe we can start by continuing to improve the economic climate here in Maine to make us a more attractive destination for investors looking to open or relocate businesses.

Maine has some unique challenges in this area, but these challenges are by no means insurmountable. It’s critical that we put aside the tired talking points and start living in reality if we have any chance of turning Maine around for the better.

Several key issues still need to be addressed in order to entice business and capital investment to come to Maine.

First and foremost, we have to drop the moniker that businesses are “evil.” Our children are graduating from college and moving out of state for jobs. We must lower the cost of doing business in Maine, which means lowering energy costs and, yes, lowering the corporate income tax rate.

In the two-year budget that was just passed, we lowered the income tax rates for the majority of Mainers. As we head into this upcoming session, we need to look at ways to address and lower the corporate income tax.

Maine has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the country, and we are just not competitive with Southern states with lower insurance costs, a lower cost of living and lower overall utility costs.

Unfortunately, our past attempts to improve Maine’s business climate have been met with the same naïve rallying cry from opponents to progress: that this is nothing more than “tax breaks for the rich.”

The first rule of business is simple: Cash in must exceed cash out. Trying to circumvent this reality has played a major role in digging the economic hole in which we have been mired for decades.

Maine has not been competitive with other states, yet our expenses are equal to and greater than other states on a per capita basis. An income tax reduction for residents means more money in an employee’s pocket. A competitive lower corporate income tax rate in combination will create an incentive to build jobs in Maine.

These are not just theories — I speak from personal experience. I have worked in private business all of my working life, in a variety of different roles — from business startup, to contract negotiations, to providing health care and pharmacy services to hundreds of thousands of Maine residents.

When working nationally, it became apparent to me that we had more roadblocks for business growth, salary and affordable living in Maine than do other states. I was paid less in other states, yet had more disposable income at the end of the year. But I was born and raised in Maine and made my home here. I will fight to make it a better home for all of us.

Businesses look for states that make it economically viable to do business, which is where legislators come into the picture. On paper, our job is not that difficult, but we need to be a help, not a hindrance.

We need to create public policy that makes businesses want to come here. That doesn’t mean we sell our collective souls to the devil or sacrifice our environment for jobs. It means we don’t tax and fee businesses to death and we don’t eat up their entire profit margin paying their heating bills.

Unfortunately, in the Maine Legislature, nothing is as easy as it should be. People get bogged down in a world of doomsday messaging and talking points and slowly move away from reality. What we need is common sense.

Over the past year, we’ve made progress as unemployment rates have dropped in every county in Maine. We still have more work to do to make Maine’s economy vibrant again, but we can’t govern through sound bites. We need to take bold action to get where we want to go. Whether we get there depends on our willingness to embrace reality.

Rep. Paul Chace, R-Durham, is a first-term legislator and a member of the Taxation Committee.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: