Friday, December 13, 2013
Sen. Andre Cushing
The state of Maine is fortunate to have the best workforce in the country. When businesses decide to locate here, they often cite the reputation of Maine workers and their strong work ethic, skills and reliability as the primary reasons.
This weekend, many of our workers will take a well-deserved break on this holiday that was created to recognize them.
While we reflect on the efforts of our workers, I believe we should be ever mindful of what is being done in the Maine Legislature to ensure our workers have the tools they need to remain competitive and employable in our ever-evolving workplace.
One of the Legislature's most significant accomplishments of the past session was passage of the "bridge year" legislation. It allows Maine high school juniors and seniors to earn college-level credits while attending high school or technical center. This will enable them to get a significant head start on an associate's degree from either a community college or one of Maine's public universities.
The Bridge Year program, currently under way as a pilot project in the town of Hermon, will have its first graduates in 2014. Its early success has several other school districts across the state planning to offer it.
Of course, as the old saying goes, "without businesses, there are no jobs." The cause and effect of policy decisions made by government is magnified by difficult economic times. That is why it is important for our state government to create an environment in Maine that is welcoming to business.
The previous Republican-led Legislature made major strides on this front by overhauling the state's regulatory structure, cutting bureaucratic red-tape that created costly obstacles to business expansion and location. Since that happened, businesses have reported significant drops in processing times for permits and licenses.
We also passed the largest income tax cut in Maine history, tax cuts that directly benefit low- and middle-income earners. Reports from Maine Revenue Service seem to indicate this formula is producing good results, with income tax revenues rising even with cuts in place.
In the first session of the current Democrat-controlled Legislature, there were several attempts to turn back some of this progress. Fortunately, the Legislature wisely chose to keep the personal income tax reductions in place; but it did raise the state sales and meals and lodging taxes.
The Legislature also kept Republican-initiated reforms to the state's workers' compensation program, which focused on getting injured Mainers the help they needed, and then getting them back to work.
Another victory for Maine workers was the Legislature's recent passage of an extension of the sales tax exemption for aircraft and aircraft parts. Since the original limited-term exemption, which was passed in 2011, Maine's aviation industry has taken off. C&L Aerospace in Bangor, for example, has quadrupled its workforce in the past couple of years by bringing new business into the state.
These are the types of policies we need to encourage if we are going to attract quality, good-paying jobs to our state. Maine's elected officials must always strive to create the type of policies that help and encourage industry and value those who put in the effort.
Our policies should be corrective, not punitive. As the great labor activist Samuel Gompers said, "The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit." Likewise, J. Paul Getty, recognizing the important relationship for a successful business, offered this thought: "Business cannot exist without labor, and labor cannot exist without business."
As we relax and enjoy this holiday dedicated to the great efforts and ingenuity of Maine's worker, I offer my thanks for all they do and wish them a happy and safe Labor Day Weekend.
Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, serves on the Maine Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.