Maine Voices Op-Ed by Senator Justin Alfond (Cumberland): Gov. LePage fails leadership test when it comes to job creation

Posted on June 18, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

(Originally published in Portland Press Herald; shared with permission.)

Maine Voices: Gov. LePage fails leadership test when it comes to job creation
By excluding the nonprofit sector from brainstorming workshops, he overlooks opportunities for growth.
By SEN. JUSTIN ALFOND

PORTLAND – “We can no longer afford to pass up any economic opportunity for our state.” That’s a quote from a June 11 Portland Press Herald Maine Voices column by John Butera, an economic policy adviser to Gov. LePage.

He’s right. However, the LePage administration isn’t practicing what it’s preaching. For a year and a half, the Republicans have claimed they are “turning around” our state. Yet, in fact, after 18 months under Paul LePage and his Republican allies, we are worse off.

The results are irrefutable. According to the U.S. Commerce Department reports, Maine was the only New England state to go backward in 2011. The only one. We lost ground.

Maine’s economy shrank while the rest of the nation’s grew — including that of our New England neighbors. In the last year alone, Maine ranked 45th in the nation for wages and dead last for personal income growth. We aren’t going forward, we’re going backward.

Republicans have made it harder to live and work in Maine. Their draconian cuts and soundbite solutions aren’t working. And instead of assisting Maine’s economy, their bills and numerous budgets have attacked working people and middle-class families.

It is true: “We can no longer afford to pass up any economic opportunity for our state.”

Just last week, I attended Gov. LePage’s job-creation workshop at Brunswick Landing, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

I laud his effort — in fact, any effort — to gather business leaders from across our state to generate ideas about job creation. However, the irony wasn’t lost on me that as we spent half a day talking about what to do for job creation, the governor continues to make choices that fly in the face of job creation.

IGNORING OPPORTUNITY

Exploring economic opportunities for our state includes leaving no stone unturned. Yet, for the last 18 months, LePage has narrow-mindedly left people out of the job-creation conversation. Maine cannot afford to have a governor ignore certain job creators just because of his bias.

For example, LePage chose to exclude the nonprofit sector — some of our state’s largest and most sophisticated employers — from the job-creation workshop. A quick look at innovators such as The Jackson Laboratory, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Bigelow Laboratory and we understand the value that these nonprofits bring to our state’s economy.

If we are serious about creating jobs and jump-starting our economy, then we cannot pass up the economic opportunities that the nonprofit sector brings to our state.

In fact, Brunswick Landing is a perfect example: Under Gov. Baldacci’s leadership, the private and nonprofit sectors, the government and the community worked together to plan and redevelop the base. The effort has yielded hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars more in investments.

Brunswick Landing is now home to Kestral Air, Integrated Marine Systems and Molnlycke Health Care — and even more businesses are destined to take root. Soon, Brunswick Landing will host a Maine Community College System campus focusing on high-demand, high-growth fields of study such as pre-engineering, imaging, paramedicine and composites.

STANDING IN THE WAY

Last week, the governor passed up another economic opportunity for our state. Le-Page announced that he is halting the remaining $40 million of bond investment projects already approved by voters.

It’s official — he is literally standing in the way of jobs. He has hit the off switch for dozens of projects across this state, including nearly $3 million targeted for the continued redevelopment efforts at Brunswick Landing.

When it comes to spending the public’s money, we must be prudent. However, we can’t ignore the facts of today’s economy: Mainers and companies alike are hungry to get back to work. Money is cheap — in fact, it’s about as cheap as it has ever been in the 225 years of our country.

To not move forward building roads, bridges and sewer treatment plants and upgrading higher education facilities is to miss investment opportunities and make Maine less competitive. Simply, the governor has single-handedly stopped needed investments and jobs for Mainers.

It is true: “We can no longer afford to pass up any economic opportunity for our state.”

The governor must be held accountable for the disparity between what he says and what he does. It is time to tell the governor to lead and create the environment for jobs, or get out of the way.

Holding job events is fine, but Mainers want good-paying jobs now. We need leadership and we need action. And, I hate to say it, but this governor is providing neither.

Sen. Justin Alfond of Portland is assistant Democratic leader of the Maine Senate.

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