In recent weeks, Governor Paul LePage unveiled his plan to roll-back environmental protections under the guise of making Maine more business friendly. In addition to hurting our environment and the health of Maine families, the Governor’s proposal will further weaken our economy by eroding what Maine is so well known for – our pristine waters, sustainable seafood, clean air, lush forests, and a playground for outdoorsmen. This is our brand that helps Maine’s businesses, large and small, prosper.
Businesses depend on our brand for tourism and marketing their products and services. The environment and our economy depend on one another for success and our brand is not something we should take lightly. It has been developed through decades of bipartisan efforts committed to steadfast stewardship for the state’s natural resources.
Each year millions of people visit our state to vacation and, as a result, spend over $10 billion annually on our tourism industry, which employs 140,000 people. People come to Maine to fish, hunt and be outdoors, but they do it because we have great natural resources, a pristine environment and beautiful communities. Our wildlife-related recreation contributes approximately $1.5 billion to the economy annually, while our fishing industry contributes another billion. We cannot afford to jeopardize these industries, instead we must add value to them.
Maine businesses, as well as working families, are financially benefiting from our “clean” environment. There are no better examples than Poland Spring, L.L. Bean or Oakhurst Dairy. These companies benefit from marketing Maine’s environment and stewardship and, as a result, their employees, our friends and neighbors, are paid good wages with benefits.
Why would we want to jeopardize this?
Better yet, instead of eroding our environment and our brand, we should be focused on working with the private sector to add greater value to our natural resources and further expand the reach of Maine’s brand.
Democrats share common ground with Governor LePage on making it easier to do business in Maine by reforming the regulatory process to be more predictable, timely, and consistent, as well as eliminating duplication and outdated or misguided regulations. We support the creation of a small business ombudsman in the Department of Economic and Community Development to help businesses navigate the regulatory process. It is critical to lend a hand to the small business community and help them succeed, because they are the backbone of our economy.
Maine’s environment gives us an economic advantage, improves our quality of life, and it is an asset we must leverage. It helps us add value to our goods and services as well as attracting people to live and start businesses here, which in turn will help our economy grow.
Improving Maine’s economy requires more than just removing regulations and a few sound bites, it takes a multi-faceted approach. Maine Democrats believe strongly that the environment is not separate and distinct from the economy, instead it is an important variable in the economic equation that will help Maine grow. We believe that the people of Maine want to continue the tradition of bipartisanship to enrich Maine’s future—but we will continue to stand strong and defend the environment, the Maine brand, and in turn Maine people.