September 30, 2012

TRUTH TEST: Raye television ad claims check out

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A precise, focused television ad from Republican Kevin Raye, the Maine Senate president running to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in Maine's 2nd Congressional District, looks at two regulatory measures Raye championed and features business officials saying the moves have helped them prosper.

ABOUT TRUTH TEST
Truth Test is a feature of MaineToday Media’s campaign coverage, in which we cast a critical eye on the truthfulness of advertising and public comments by political candidates and groups.

His claims check out: Not only do the businesses in the ad stand by the claims, but other sources corroborate them. Raye also was involved directly in the changes.

"Kevin Raye's leadership has helped us bring aviation jobs to Maine."

-- Gene Richardson, owner of Maine Aero Services in Bangor

Robert Caverly, Raye's campaign manager, said this was a reference to a bill Raye submitted that was killed in the Legislature; but language based on that bill was incorporated into the state's biennial budget, passed in 2011.

The piece that aided the aviation industry is buried deep within the budget. It eliminated the 5 percent tax on sales of repair and replacement parts used only in aircraft. This tax exemption, which ends in June 2015, will require the state to forgo nearly $2.5 million in revenue.

In an interview, Richardson said that because of the tax elimination, his company, which employs 15 people, has added four jobs they wouldn't have added otherwise. He said the change has helped them retain business they might have lost and also has drawn new customers.

Richardson said the tax added significantly to the cost of expensive jobs, especially involving avionics, relating to airplanes' electrical systems. When the tax was in effect, companies such as his lost business to nearby states without the tax, such as New Hampshire and Connecticut.

"Some of the jobs could be $70,000. Five percent of $70,000 is what, $3,500?" he said. "They could go to New Hampshire and not pay that."

The Associated Press reported in 2011 that Portland-based Maine Aviation Corp. planned to build new hangars and expand its work force as a result of the tax elimination.

We rate this claim true.

"When our mill needed access to lower-cost energy, Kevin Raye got it done and preserved jobs."

-- Scott Beal, communications director at Woodland Pulp LLC in Baileyville

Raye sponsored the bill his campaign said is the basis for this claim. It passed last year as emergency legislation, giving the Maine Public Utilities Commission, instead of the federal government, oversight of private natural gas pipelines.

Woodland Pulp, a large employer in Washington County, worked to transition its Baileyville mill from heating oil to natural gas in 2011 and 2012, also constructing a 4.5-mile natural gas pipeline from the mill to the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, which runs from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts.

WCSH-TV reported in May 2012 that conversion cost $16 million. The mill expected a one-year payback because of the cheaper cost of natural gas relative to heating oil, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Raye's bill helped the initiative by changing the regulatory framework, according to Beal. It probably would have taken another year to build the pipeline under federal regulations, he said in an email.

Perhaps most importantly for the region, it was expected to secure 310 papermaking jobs and 1,800 related jobs, including in logging and shipping, the Portland Press Herald reported in September 2011.

"The sustained cost savings that the project has generated has significantly lowered our manufacturing costs thus making us that much more viable to stay in operation as a (low-cost) producer of market pulp," Beal said in an email.

We rate this claim true.

Verdict: Raye's ad is on point and accurate, citing aid to these industries that the state senator didn't simply advocate, but took an active role in. The changes weren't massive newsmakers, but they were large boons to these businesses.

We rate this ad true.

Michael Shepherd -- 621-5632

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

 

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