State of the State

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in News

State of the State

by Gina Hamilton

On Tuesday evening, Gov. Paul LePage gave his State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature.

There were few surprises in the address.  LePage, reading from a prepared text rather than a teleprompter, reiterated the history of the last year, including this year's large tax cut of nearly $200 million, the largest tax cut in Maine history, and incidentally, not considerably less than the amount of the shortfall DHHS is trying to close.  Although he lauded the tax cut, as well as closing a portion of the pension debt, he spoke more harshly about some of the issues that he says is holding back business from settling in Maine.

First is the issue of energy costs.  LePage correctly pointed out that Maine is no longer competing just with New England, all of which has high energy costs.  Maine is competing with states in the midwest and the deep south, where electricity costs are significantly lower.  In order to lower energy costs, however, LePage's idea that green energy is more expensive than fossil fuels is short-sighted.  He said that he would attempt to bring in more natural gas, and attempt to increase the 100 mW limit for hydroelectric power. 

Second, LePage said that businesses say that they need a better educated workforce.  LePage said that he would "put students first", but there was little in the way of specifics, except for technical education, such as the expansion of the Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, which will soon operate on part of the Good-Will Hinkley campus under a Harold Alfond grant.  He applauded charter school legislation.  He also took credit for a $63 million increase in K-12 spending, but unfortunately the reality is that, with the loss of federal stimulus funds, K-12 spending actually decreased in this biennium.

LePage also wanted additional tax cuts, especially for pensioners, who LePage said are being forced out of the state by high taxation. 

LePage said that some businesses are coming back, including some that had been overseas, such as Great Northern Paper, which reopened its Millinocket plant this year, and Carbonite, in the Lewiston/Auburn area, a technical IT firm, which had previously had a call center in India.

One of the largest surprises of the night was LePage's call for men to stand together to end domestic violence in the state.  Acknowledging that his young life was blighted by domestic violence, he said "It is time for domestic violence to stop being considered a women's issue and begin to be seen as a men's issue," noting that most perpetrators of domestic violence are men.

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