By Rep. Rich Cebra -Special to the Bridgton News 11/1/12
On October 25, Maine received some of our best economic news in years. We learned that Maine employers added 7,400 private sector jobs from June 2011 to June 2012, a period of time that matches the start of Republican pro-growth policies.
You have not heard about this in the news because Maine’s left-wing media has imposed a blackout. Their goal is to make sure Mainers don’t learn about such a positive development before the election. This is the sort of treatment Republicans have come to expect when the state’s largest newspaper chain is owned by Wall Street billionaire Donald Sussman, the husband of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
Throughout this campaign season, the Democratic Party has relentlessly trashed Republican policies to create private sector jobs. In newspaper columns, radio speeches and paid advertising, they have proclaimed that Maine has actually gone “backwards,” losing jobs while the rest of New England was on the economic mend.
No matter how much Democrats wished that Republican policies would fail, even they must now acknowledge the truth. Our multi-pronged strategies to generate jobs and economic renewal have worked, even better and faster than expected.
The October 25 announcement of significant job growth was detailed by Glenn Mills, chief economist at the Center for Workforce Research at the Maine Department of Labor. In a presentation to the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission, Mills said Maine employers added jobs in a variety of business sectors – health care, leisure and hospitality, professional services, construction and education, while manufacturing, retail and finance jobs have “stabilized.”
Mills further explained that Maine’s unemployment rate in September would have been 5.5 percent if Maine’s labor force “participation” rate were as low as the national average. He added that if the U.S. labor force participation rate matched Maine’s, the national unemployment rate in September would have been 9.8 percent.
This encouraging new jobs report stands in stark contrast to the record over the previous 10 years, when Democratic policies held sway. According to former State Economist Charles Colgan, now at the University of Southern Maine, the state generated exactly 56 “net” new jobs from 2001 to 2010. To calculate net jobs, he took the number of new jobs and subtracted the jobs we lost.
That’s not much to be proud of, 56 jobs over 120 months. No wonder voters in 2010 decided to throw out the ruling party and bring in a pro-business, pro-jobs Republican majority.
Republicans understand that government cannot create private sector jobs, but it can create the conditions and environment to stimulate business growth, which, in turn, leads to more jobs.
We began with LD 1, a major bill to eliminate unnecessary red tape, streamline permitting procedures and bring common sense to our regulatory system. Business owners told us in hearings held around the state that regulatory excess was one of the worst problems they had. We took care to protect Maine’s natural environment while introducing a new attitude where regulators and the regulated work together for mutually beneficial solutions.
We also put through the largest tax cut in Maine history by lowering the top income tax rate from 8.5 percent 7.95, increasing standard deductions and personal exemptions and eliminating the income tax for 70,000 low-income tax filers. The tax package also included substantial business incentives, including a seed capital investment tax credit, accelerated depreciation of new business equipment, a new markets tax credit for business investment in distressed communities, a fishery infrastructure tax credit and even incentives to promote film-making in Maine.
Reforms to Maine’s health insurance law are already lowering or reversing the rate of increase on insurance premiums for individuals, families and small businesses. We have cautioned that these reforms need time to work and to be fully implemented. Action on health insurance was urgent because our insurance rates, among the highest in the country, had become a huge drag on employers and, by extension, on job creation. Finally, we are seeing some relief, but even more needs to be done to attack the root problem – the high cost of health care itself.
No one thing improved our business climate. It was a combination of numerous bills on all fronts to attack our jobs problem from many angles. We also brought a new attitude that state government is an advocate for business, not an adversary. It is now the mission of every state agency to assist companies seeking to create jobs.
The big increase in jobs last year is great news for the overall health of our economy. It is great news for the state to have more people working and paying taxes. Above all, it is great news for those folks who have found jobs and the dignity and pride that comes with a paycheck. ###
State Rep. Rich Cebra (R-Naples) is the House chair of the Transportation Committee