Editorial: Planning for growth

Governor Mills has directed her administration to develop a 10-year strategic economic development plan for the state of Maine to be completed by November. The Governor has tapped the Department of Economic and Community Development to lead the effort. She has emphasized the plan will be expected to recommend steps to improve statewide broadband infrastructure and address the needs of workforce skills and training.

The process of building the strategic economic development plan for the state will include an obligatory summer tour seeking input from different geographic regions and economic sectors.

A sweeping strategic economic plan will likely flesh out the Governor’s vision and articulate policies and action steps designed to fulfill that vison. That is a good thing and will help the economy plan and adjust to the policy direction the government intends to pursue. But economic investment is a timid friend, averse to illogical change and uncertainty.

“Strengthening our economy and tackling Maine’s workforce challenges requires a multifaceted approach that addresses skills training, research and development and increasing Maine’s GDP and median wages,” Mills said in announcing the planning initiative. “To achieve these goals state government must be a partner and not an impediment.”

Contrasted against the worthy objective to design a 10-year economic strategy for 2030 is the inconsistent and damaging impact that business faces from aggressive proposals now moving through the Legislature which direct state government to behave as an adversary toward employers and an obstacle to achieving success in 2019.

There are more than two dozen bills now under consideration that would unnecessarily disrupt a workers’ compensation system that has dramatically improved workplace safety, stabilized premiums and dramatically improved the employee and employer relationship.

Employers are facing the prospect of implementing a groundbreaking paid family leave benefit and paid sick leave benefit. They’re also navigating increased workplace penalties, prohibiting asking a candidate’s salary history and funding a minimum wage that will increase every year.

The Governor’s two-year state budget proposes, in fiscal year 2020, a 6.8-percent spending increase over the current year. The budget also proposes the addition of scores of new positions added to the state payroll.

Legislators have voted a bill out of committee which directs the state to nationalize the state’s largest electric utility company.

The Legislature is poised to enact a basket full of tax exemptions, credits and special tax loop holes that will favor particular interest groups pitting winners against losers.

The Governor’s commitment to being “a partner and not an impediment” will be so much puffery without buy-in from the Legislature. Without lawmakers on board, the Mills Express will not be leaving the station.

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