Michaud: Businesses want a positive governorPlan calls for raising minimum wage, offering free year of college
Rockland — Congressman Mike Michaud said Maine needs a governor who is positive about the state rather than running it down and getting it lampooned on late-night comedy shows.
He has also released a plan that includes increasing minimum wage to $9; creating 31,000 jobs; providing the second year of college free; promoting businesses outside the state; and reducing energy costs by 50 percent in the next 16 years.
"There are a lot of opportunities. You have to have a governor that believes in Maine, that believes that Maine and Maine people can move forward and has a positive attitude, rather than downing Maine and its people," Michaud said.
Negativity does not attract businesses to the state, he argued.
Michaud, a Democrat, said he is the only contender for governor with a proven track record of working across party lines. He is running against Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.
He is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving Maine's Second Congressional District. He has represented his hometown both in the Maine House and Senate and was Senate President in 2000 during Angus King's administration.
Raising minimum wage
Michaud's plan calls for increasing minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 per hour over a three-year period.
Michaud said he has heard a mixed response from small business owners, but there has not been too much negativity about the idea as many places already pay above minimum wage.
31,000 more jobs
If elected, Michaud said he wants to establish a Maine Domestic Trade Center, which would accomplish three things — help small businesses market their products outside the state, interest outside businesses in Maine, and create jobs.
From 2002 to 2012, Maine ranked 29th in the nation in business starts, but 46th in business expansions. Over the past decade, employment at businesses with two to nine employees grew by 21 percent, compared with 38 percent nationally, and sales grew by 2.4 percent in Maine compared to 12.6 percent nationally, according to Michaud.
If Maine were to close the gap with the rest of nation in job growth for companies with two to nine employees, the state could add 31,000 more jobs over the next 10 years, his plan states.
The trade center would be paid for with state revenue. He said in the past when working with CEOs and site selectors from outside the state, they were really surprised to learn Maine was interested in business, thinking it is just Vacationland. The state does a good job promoting tourism, but could do just as well promoting business, he said.
"I think we have a lot to offer here in the state of Maine and I look forward to working with the business community to move forward. I've never seen anyone running for governor that focused on small business," Michaud said.
In addition, he would like to see research-and-development entities from the drug industry come into Maine to work with businesses that are already here, such as the University of Maine system and Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.
"We need to create an environment that will bring them here. An environment that will look at different areas, look at the regulatory process, see what we are doing today. Does it have to be this way? Can we change it, streamline the process?" Michaud said.
Sophomore year free
If elected, Michaud said he will work with higher education, public and private, to make education more affordable, but also to utilize the community colleges and the university to help the economy grow.
In Congress, he said, he was able to obtain additional funding for the Knowledge Transfer Alliance at the University of Maine at Orono, which connects university students and businesses.
"We have to utilize higher ed and students in higher ed to give them real-life experience vs. a textbook experience," Michaud said. "It's good for the students and good for the business."
His plan also calls for making the sophomore year of college free. Research shows that the overwhelming majority of students who drop out of college do so after their first year, and it is often for financial reasons, he said.
Cutting energy costs
Michaud said he also has a goal to reduce the state's rising energy costs by 50 percent by 2030 by becoming a national leader in renewable energy production and efficiency. He said there is a lot of potential with wind, solar and tidal power.
Focus on farming
Although Maine has the oldest population per capita in the country, the state has the youngest population per capita for farmers, he said, adding he would like to see processing plants set up to help farmers find markets for their products.
"There is no reason Maine can't be the food basket for New England," Michaud said. "We have the land, we have the resources and what we have to do is be able to help individuals find markets for their produce, but processing is a big issue."
Michaud said his bill in Congress, the Northern Regional Economic Development Bill, was able to get $250,000 for Northern Girl in Van Buren to process food for the Portland school system.
He said Good Shepherd Food Bank is willing to purchase food from farmers and there is a movement to get Massachusetts food banks to purchase Maine-grown food.
"There's a lot of opportunities for us to grow our farming businesses here in the state of Maine and get good food here and grown locally. I look forward to continuing that discussion with farmers throughout the state," Michaud said.
Expanded health care access
If elected, Michaud would expand access to Medicaid because, he said, it would cover 70,000 people, 3,000 of those being veterans. The expansion would save Maine $600 million over a 10-year time frame, hospitals would receive an additional $348,000 and it is estimated to create 3,400 jobs.
Working across party lines
Michaud said he is the only one of the three candidates for governor who has a proven track record of being able to work across party lines to get things done.
When he was president of Maine Senate there were 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one independent Senator. He said although it was evenly divided, they were able to work together.
He said they started every morning in his office going over the calendar in an informal way and that helped to speed up the process, but also helped to build trust and opened lines of communication.
The Forest Practices Act, which he said was a controversial piece of legislation, was able to be passed under his leadership and is still on the books today.
"I can go over and over the different very complicated issues that have been split and fought for year in and year out, but I was able to bring people together and get things done in a positive way," Michaud said.
In Congress, he is a member of the Veteran Affairs Committee and before the August break, he said they voted on 34 pieces of legislation, combining them into seven and some have already had votes on the House floor.
Working with legislators
"Having knowledge of the legislative process, working with both the House of Representatives and state Senate and respecting that process goes a long way," he said, noting LePage does not respect the legislative process.
"You need a governor that can work together and a governor that understands what legislators have to go through... I know what they have gone through, I have been there and done that myself."
To see Michaud's plan in its entirety, go to michaud2014.com/mainemade
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.