Michael Carey: Maine's economy shrinks under GOP control
Maine people don’t need a national report to tell us times are tough. The economy may be growing nationally but people are still struggling to make ends meet. Nevertheless it is jarring to see it in black and white.
Recently we learned that Maine was among only a handful of states where the economy actually slid backward last year. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that Maine was the only state in New England whose economy shrunk in 2011 and one of only seven states nationwide.
Finding a job isn’t easy, and neither is staying afloat during a job search. In this recession, more than 50,000 Maine people look for work every day.
As lawmakers, we should be doing everything we can to get our economy moving again so people who have lost their job, through no fault of their own, have more opportunity, not less.
But instead of creating jobs and getting the state's economy moving again, we’ve seen some in Augusta undermine middle class families and hold job growth hostage to an extreme tea party agenda.
While Maine’s economy is shrinking and businesses on Main Street are closing their doors, our governor announced that he would slow or halt voter-approved investments that would create jobs across our state. He plans to ignore the will of the voters by refusing to invest money on projects that Maine voters have already approved. He effectively pulled $40 million in investments out of the state's economy.
As a result, job creation at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, research programs at Maine’s universities and labs, and improvements in our downtowns across the state are at risk. Maine voters chose to make those investments in our local area with our tax dollars.
To top it all off, Betsy Biemann, the head of the Maine Technology Institute, resigned soon after the governor’s veto of a $20 million research and development bond that she had publicly supported. Why is the governor ignoring the voters and turning his back on job creation? That sends a terrible message to the business community.
The governor and our Republican colleagues are leading our state down the wrong path. Two years of total Republican control of state government have made it more difficult to live and work in Maine.
We’ve seen investment in innovation and job creation blocked by tea party politics. In the past few years alone, these types of investments have helped companies such as Jackson Labs and Maine pulp and paper mills innovate and create jobs. Engineering graduates from our universities will have fewer job choices in Maine because the GOP refused to make common sense investments in research and development.
Instead of creating jobs for the future, Republicans have stuck to the same old playbook.
Under Republican control, we’ve seen tax giveaways for the wealthy paid for on the backs of the middle class, our children and our seniors.
Republicans have made it easier for insurance companies to increase health insurance rates for Maine families and businesses without prior approval.
And what happened?
Because of the Republican rate hike law, health insurance costs have skyrocketed for small businesses and older Mainers, especially in rural Maine.
The extreme agenda has moved our state backward, while our neighbors in other states around the country have begun to emerge from the recession. Maine shouldn’t be held hostage to a backward agenda.
It is time we tax fairly and cut wisely, not tax the middle class and slash services to children, seniors and to public safety.
The best way to improve our economy is by investing in small businesses, job training, roads and bridges and public education. We need more opportunity, not less.
Maine can’t slash and burn its way to success.
Rep. Mike Carey is the Democratic representative for part of Lewiston and serves on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.