Maine’s economy shrank last year.
While the rest of New England and much of the country moved forward, our state contracted.
As reported by Capitol News Service, Maine’s economy contracted by .04 percent, while the national economy grew by 1.5 percent. New England grew by 1.8 percent.
It’s a pitiful showing that demonstrates it takes more than just talk and new signs to create jobs and get the state’s economy back on track.
While the governor’s minority of supporters cheer his alleged pro-business support, new jobs haven’t followed.
But when it comes to real change and actions that could turn things around, his policy decisions have fallen flat.
He has increased state spending with little measurable positive benefit, given tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, and now he has decided to ignore the will of voters when it comes to investments that would put people back to work.
Last week, LePage continued his war on job creation, ordering state agencies to immediately stop work that is funded by bonds that have already been approved by voters and could be used to create jobs right now.
With the stroke of his pen, the governor has pulled $40.7 million out of the state economy, dollars that could be helping people right now.
Mike Allen, associate commissioner for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, told reporter Mal Leary that the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station was one of the most likely reasons that Maine’s economy suffered last year with a reduced gross domestic product.
The loss of those public sector – read government – jobs, played a big role in our back slide.
And it’s public investment that could help turn the tide, except that the Republican Party in Maine and nationally has decided that it values firefighters, teachers, soldiers and sailors and other government employees less than other workers.
Included in those bonds that the governor has put on hold: $2.9 million for redevelopment of BNAS.
The economy is hurting. We know why. But the governor unilaterally decides that doing nothing is better than attacking the problem directly.
Unemployment in Maine also ticked up last month to 7.4 percent for May. It was 7.2 percent in April. In some parts of the state, the numbers are even higher.
In Washington County, it’s 10.9 percent. Included on the list of bonds the governor has put a hold on: $900,000 at the ports in Eastport and Searsport.
Meanwhile, the bonds that have been put on hold would also invest in higher education, energy conservation, community and economic revitalization, innovation and land preservation.
The list of targets for scorn include money to help farmers get the water they need for their businesses, to clean up hazardous waste and improve wastewater treatment facilities.
It includes significant investment in our airports, including the one in Augusta and on Maine’s islands, in our railroads and ferries.
In the past, Maine’s business community has been vocal in its support for these types of activities. They have understood that the work creates business opportunities for them, creates jobs for their employees and puts the state in a better position to grow in the future.
At some point, it will be up to the business community to stand up to the governor and put pressure on him to reverse course.
In 2011, Maine lost 1,300 jobs.
Perhaps the governor’s master plan is to stall these investments until the next election year, when he can do a grand tour of the state handing out checks. But next year will be too late for some workers. They need a job now.
The governor has it in his power to make a difference. Instead, he chose to make things worse.
Hard working, middle class families are hurting now. They need jobs, and they need hope.
What they’ve gotten instead are signs on the edge of town.
David Farmer is a political and media consultant. He was formerly deputy chief of staff and communications director for Gov. John E. Baldacci and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dfarmer14.