Poliquin discusses vision for bringing jobs to Maine's 2nd District during Belfast visit
Belfast — Bruce Poliquin, the Republican nominee running for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, was in Belfast visiting Mathews Brothers, a window manufacturer, July 23. He met with The Journal afterwards to talk about his campaign.
Over pistachio ice cream at The Chocolate Drop Candy Shop, a.k.a. Dave's Soda Fountain on Main Street, Poliquin laid out the details of his platform, pausing to introduce himself to customers.
“I remember my son when he was that age,” Poliquin said to the parents of six-month-old twins. He raised his son Sam, now 23, by himself after his wife died in 1991.
Poliquin is concerned about the future for his son's generation and generations to follow. Sam is now living and working in Boston and Poliquin would like to see Maine become more competitive in attracting companies to invest in the state and create jobs so young people can stay in the state and work. This can be achieved, he said, by providing incentives for business, lowering the cost of energy and health care and making the regulatory environment and tax structure more business friendly.
With its wealth of natural resources, Congressional District 2 has tremendous potential for agriculture, wood products, and hydroelectric industries, Poliquin said. But he says this potential is not being met because, for one, Maine's energy costs are sky-high. He pointed to the shutdown of the state's nuclear power plant and removal of hydroelectric dams as causes for the increase in the cost of electricity from 2 cents per kilowatt hour when the nuclear plant was in operation to 14 cents per kilowatt hour today.
“That makes a huge difference when you're trying to run a business,” he said. “Nuclear power has no carbon footprint, an unlimited supply of fuel and we've been using it safely for 55-60 years ... and hydroelectric dams were a source of free energy after the installation of the equipment.”
When reminded that the dams were removed to allow fish passage, he responded: “There are a lot of ways we can make sure our fisheries are protected,” and pointed to the lobster industry as an example of successful management.
Another way Poliquin would like to see businesses' energy costs reduced is to encourage pipelines to be constructed to transport natural gas, which he supported while he was state treasurer. He gave the example of a pulp mill in Woodland owned by a Chinese investment firm which invested $15 million in building a five-mile pipeline to tap off a trunk of natural gas that runs through the state. They made back their investment the first year, and subsequently, because their operating costs are now so much lower using natural gas, they announced a $120 million investment into a pulp mill to produce tissue paper which will include the addition of 80 new jobs.
“That's what economic development looks like,” Poliquin said. “Matthews Brothers has high energy costs and high taxes, and they're still here. They're doing great and are employing 100 people in Waldo County; but if we can help them to be able to grow, that would be even better.”
When asked about renewable energies, he said he was interested in those insofar as they do not need to be subsidized. It would be better, he said, to focus on the inexpensive energies that work and to drive down costs of fuel by increasing supply obtained domestically. He would like to see the Marcellus Shale natural gas extracted in environmentally safe ways and the Keystone XL pipeline built to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, he said, because otherwise it would have to be transported it by truck or rail.
“Increasing our domestic supply of oil would have the ancillary benefit of reducing our dependence on the Middle East for our energy needs,” he said, “making us more secure and safer, and our men and women in uniform would be less likely to have to serve in harm’s way.”
Poliquin believes that as the technologies for renewable energies improve, they will become much more competitive, and at that point those forms of energy can be used to reduce our overall energy costs.
"The average Maine family spends $3,000 a year to heat their home,” Poliquin said. “If we could reduce their heating costs by 40 to 50 percent, by using natural gas, think of what they can do with an extra 1,200-1,500 a year.”
Corporate tax reform
Another way he’d make Maine more attractive to investors is by fixing the corporate tax code. Poliquin would fight for a fairer, less complex tax code if elected, one in which individual and corporate rates are lowered, loopholes closed, and special deals for big companies eliminated. The Economist Magazine reported July 26: “America’s corporate tax rate ... at 35 percent is the highest among the 34 mostly rich-country members of the OECD. Yet it raises less revenue than the OECD average thanks to myriad loopholes… Last year these breaks cost $150 billion in forgone revenue, more than half of what America collected in total corporate taxes.”
If a company moves its operations to and keeps its profits in another country it will pay lower rates: 26 percent in Canada, 25 percent in China, 20 percent in Russia and 12.6 percent in Ireland, for a few examples.
“That is a disincentive for companies to invest in America, expand, grow, grow the economy and hire more people,” Poliquin said “There is about $2 trillion in earnings that are being kept overseas that we'd love to bring back to the U.S.”
“My vision is to have more jobs, more opportunities, more choices, more freedom for our families to lead better lives and more freedom,” Poliquin said. “I don't believe the right way to go is to have more and more families dependent on the federal government for their happiness, because what happens is that you're stuck in these programs that keep you for the most part impoverished.”
As a French Catholic, Poliquin says he believes in taking care of others, but sees a problem in opening welfare programs to young able-bodied adults.
“We need to save welfare for those that really really need it,” he said. “Others should be able to climb the economic ladder. I did it myself.”
Instead of federal mandates for welfare programs that might not fit Maine, he would propose block grants for social services, which would allow elected officials closer to the problems determine how to spend those funds.
Regarding minimum wage, he believes by growing the economy, minimum wage would become less and less of an issue. He does not want to raise it because that would take away jobs from teenagers living at home who he says fill most minimum-wage jobs.
Business owners in Maine, Poliquin said, are having difficulty finding young people to work. While working on bringing business to Maine, he said, we also need to make sure we save welfare for those who need it the most.
Another way to grow the economy in Maine, Poliquin says, is to ensure there is an educated work force available in the state. To encourage students to find their passion and stay in school, he says choices should be available to students through charter schools, publicly funded schools governed and operated independently of the traditional public school system. With more choices available through charter schools, students who are not successful in traditional schools may have more of a chance to find their passion. Ultimately, though, he says decisions regarding education should be made on the state and local level, not by lawmakers in Washington.
Poliquin says he has 35 years experience growing the economy, running businesses, hiring people and creating jobs, and would like to use his experience for a short time, possibly two terms, to help "fix the mess in Washington." He supports term limits because he says legislators should have some business experience.
"Career politicians avoid making tough decisions, because they're trying to make friends and get reelected," Poliquin said.
Poliquin said he ran a pension investment company which helped protect pensions for workers around the country including Bath Iron Works and International Paper employees. He said he would like to use his business experience to help the federal government deal with an issue similar to one he faced as state treasurer from 2011-2013.
At that time there was a 4.3 billion dollar shortfall in the pension fund for teachers and state workers, and the annual contribution by taxpayers to this fund was 1/7 of all Maine spending. He attributed this problem to career politicians promising retirement benefits the state could not afford and not putting money aside. As treasurer, he said he was able to reform the pension program so it is more secure for teachers and state workers and eliminated 1.7 billion of that pension debt, reducing spending and allowing taxes to be cut or eliminated for the poorest Mainers. T
he federal government is facing a similar problem with Social Security. Poliquin advocates making no change to Social Security program for those who have paid into it and are counting on it. But for younger generations, he proposes raising the retirement age and basing payments on need.
With his advocacy for small government, reducing the national debt, lowering taxes, securing the border with Mexico, block grants, and opposition to ObamaCare and abortion rights, he has been associated with the tea party movement. But Poliquin does not embrace this label. "I've never been endorsed by a tea party, and I don't belong to a tea party," he said. "I've been endorsed by Senator Collins [a moderate Republican]. She donated the maximum amount to my campaign through her leadership PAC, and I look forward to working with her in Washington, but I will work with anybody who wants to do what is right and help our 2nd District — whether they're Democrat, Republican or Independent."