A shot at progressive reform

By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 31, 2012

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs?

In Maine politics, just about every proposal is justified by saying it's being done to grow jobs.

Jobs are sorely needed. According to John Dorrer, a former Maine Department of Labor economist and now an advisor to a Boston-based job-development organization, the state currently has 80,000 to 90,000 unemployed people, including those who have given up seeking work.

He said this at the "Jobs of the Future" Maine Development Foundation seminar for legislators on December 6. Several of the business, nonprofit, and academic speakers said a key to job creation was the education of Maine's workforce. And, somehow, slowing runaway health-care costs, which hamstring business development.

Chuck Hays, CEO of MaineGeneral, the Augusta-area medical complex, said many of the state's future jobs will be in the health-care field. But producing nurses, physical therapists, and the like will be "a challenge" for Maine's educational institutions. Other speakers said finding people with technical education to fill manufacturing jobs also would be a challenge.

It was not a Republican-oriented set of speakers. One audience member asked Keri Seitz, president of a Bowdoin medical-device company with 100 employees, if state-government regulations were burdensome. "Actually, no," she replied.

The speakers tended to avoid recommending specific solutions to educational, health-care, and other lacks. Some Democratic legislators, though, were not so shy about political answers.

Independent Representative James Campbell, 79, sounded like a youthful radical in promoting to the group a single-payer health-care system. And in an interview, speaking of the unfunded GOP tax cuts, he stressed that "it hasn't happened yet," meaning the cuts haven't yet taken effect and could be reversed by the new Legislature.

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