Issues of Impact

An important part of fulfilling the Chamber’s mission “To promote and advance a vital, healthy business environment” involves advocating for public policy that will help our region prosper and grow.

Rather than react to what policy makers propose, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce seeks to define its agenda and bring it forward.

“Issues of Impact” outlines the policies that the Chamber believes will most help its members. Drafted in the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee, the document was endorsed by the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

Issues of Impact 2017:


HEALTH CARE

Health care remains a chief concern among Maine employers as a significant cost of doing business and a driver of public sector costs.

The Chamber supports:

  • Amending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to mitigate penalties on small business, redefine full-time employees as those working 40 hours per week, stabilize insurer participation on the exchange, reduce consumer exposure for high deductibles and co-pays that result in bad debt for health care providers.
  • Expanding Medicaid (MaineCare) to fully leverage available federal dollars under the ACA
  • Working to ensure that national and state policy affecting access to insurance coverage reflect the needs of Maine’s businesses, employees, low income citizens and health care providers.
  • Supporting the needs of Maine’s aging population by implementing a comprehensive plan that addresses health care workforce shortages, replacement plans for aging facilities, and innovative community and facility based services.
  • Maintaining support for the Fund for Healthy Maine to improve the health status of Maine’s workforce and families.

ENERGY

The Chamber endorses an energy policy that makes paramount the goal of lowering the cost of energy for all Mainers. As a result, the State, regulators, generators, and local utilities should continue to pursue strategic investments in all energy forms that lower the overall cost of energy.

The Chamber supports:

  • Fully leveraging Maine’s Omnibus Energy Act of 2013 to increase the supply of natural gas in the state and the region, including a new regional infrastructure to relieve the gas supply bottleneck.
  • Further development of wind, bio-fuel, solar, hydro, and geothermal technologies as-well-as alternative energy in transportation to lower the overall cost of energy.
  • Development and deployment of energy conservation and efficiency, and strategy and policy that encourages businesses to upgrade inefficient heating and lighting.
  • Exploring greater collaboration with Canada such as creating an energy corridor through Maine and purchasing Canadian energy to lower Maine’s energy costs.

TAXES

The tax burden on Maine people and businesses is high and discourages growth. Maine cannot continue with an outdated, anti-growth system of taxation.

The Chamber supports:

  • No increase in, and ideally a reduction of, the overall tax burden for Maine people and businesses.
  • An approach to municipal revenue sharing that does not exacerbate the problem of already high property taxes.
  • Tax policies that encourage regionalization.
  • Maintaining and building on the progress made toward lower state income taxes.
  • Tax policies that make Maine more attractive for the recruitment of businesses that will serve as a magnet to a young workforce.
  • Tax policies that will provide an incentive for retirees to stay in Maine as-well-as attracting others.
  • Tax reform that will reduce the volatility of tax revenues, with an eye toward broadening the sales tax base.
  • Continued scrutiny of state spending and government efficiency.

EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
A continuum of lifelong educational opportunity and achievement is essential to the region’s economic health and quality of life. Without an educated and globally competitive workforce, the region cannot succeed.

The Chamber supports:

  • Efforts to improve the cost-effectiveness of public primary and secondary education combined with continued use of public funding to keep college affordable through tuition support, financial aid and student loan forgiveness programs.
  • Continued effort by the Maine Legislature to reach the 55 percent commitment to pay for General Purpose Aid for costs associated with K-12 education, bearing in mind the need to keep the state’s tax burden from growing. Expanded access to early childhood education programs as a funding priority.
  • Educational partnerships that increase the number of college-bound high school seniors.
  • Establishment of grants to expand workforce development programs, including private employee training.\
  • Support for returning veterans in the community and regional workforce.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT/ COMMERCIALIZATION

The future of our region’s economy is tied closely to investments in research, development, and commercialization and should be advanced by public-private partnerships.

The Chamber supports:

  • Raising public awareness and understanding of R&D’s value to Maine’s economy.
  • Implementing the state’s 2010 Science and Technology Action Plan calling for “an environment where science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship stimulate Maine’s economy,” as-well-as the goal of R&D activity equaling three percent of gross state product.
  • Fully leveraging R&D investments approved by voters in 2014, and continued support for allocating money to competitive funds to maximize R&D investments.
  • Leveraging the work of business accelerators and incubators aimed at converting research into new business opportunities.
  • Investing in R&D through bonds, including the R&D bond that will go before voters in June 2017. • Attracting and retaining students in our region through investing in modern STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education facilities where Maine’s workforce needs are greatest.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation supports economic growth, spurs job creation, and enhances quality of life. Priorities must focus on economic growth and competitiveness, greater regional and global connectivity and productivity, job creation, and enhancing our quality of life.

As such, the Chamber supports:

  • A comprehensive state plan for the repair, maintenance, and expansion of roads and bridges, funded by grants, bonding, and other resources allocated in accordance with state priorities.
  • The preservation and upgrading of an up-to-date rail network capable of providing commercial freight services to key points in Maine and beyond, with special emphasis on east-west rail connectivity via Montreal.
  • Expansion of passenger, freight and ground services; supporting allied business operations at Bangor International Airport.
  • Development of the Searsport cargo terminal, including necessary dredging to maintain future viability and competitiveness, and continued development of the Port of Eastport.
  • Public transportation and pedestrian amenities that serve the needs of the region’s population and enhance the livability of our downtowns and other centers of commerce.
  • Marketing and other developmental efforts and initiatives that serve to support the region’s transportation related potential in commercial and industrial trade and production, and tourism.

REGIONAL CONNECTIVITY AND COMMUNICATIONS

Broadband capacity and communication capabilities, and a growing awareness of the importance of digital literacy, are critical to economic development, and continue to be a growing strength in this region for eliminating geography as a concern with respect to economic growth.

The Chamber supports:

  • Leveraging assets to bring data centers to the Bangor region.
  • Economic development strategies to attract companies with a high demand for bandwidth, leveraging the “backbone” assets now in place.
  • Public and business policies and investments that will allow for greater permeation of broadband, especially ultra-high-speed connections used by technology companies.
  • Improved broadband for health care in Maine by ensuring the availability and reliability of telemedicine, which is especially critical for patients in rural Maine.

REGIONAL COLLABORATION

Regional collaboration offers the opportunity to use public, private and nonprofit resources more effectively in addressing economic and social issues.

  • The Chamber supports working with area chambers of commerce in the four-county region (under a Regional Resources Council), to identify criteria and approaches to align businesses, governments, and educational institutions around a transformative Continuous Learning Region, to include:
  • Encouraging collaborative efforts between municipal and county government and between government and business to realize cost savings and better serve our communities.
  • Fostering collaboration between educational institutions, businesses, and government to align educational opportunities with regional needs and workforce development
  • Encouraging cooperative efforts among regional health care providers to improve quality, reduce costs, address the overall health of the population within the region.
  • Working with government and business to create a nurturing environment for entrepreneurship and to encourage innovation.

SOCIAL IMPACT

Social stability is the foundation of all communities and the catalyst for future growth. The Chamber regards social issues, such as substance abuse and addiction, domestic violence, violent crime, child abuse, mental illness, poverty, and homelessness as direct threats to future economic development. Working toward solutions to these various social issues is necessary to spur economic growth in the Bangor Region. The Chamber also recognizes these social issues are complex and multifaceted. By advancing ideas that address these social issues, Maine residents are provided a better quality of life and the business community creates a more stable and productive workforce.

The Chamber supports:

  • Measures to reduce substance abuse and addiction which affect so many Maine people.
  • Measures to reduce instances of domestic violence, violent crime, and child abuse and programs to provide support to victims.
  • Programs to aid sufferers of all forms of mental illness and aid their integration into the workforce.
  • Measures to reduce poverty and homelessness, especially among children and young adults who represent the future of our community and economy.

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