PORTLAND — U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud on Wednesday released his plan to build Maine’s economy during a campaign event at Portland’s Rosemont Market.
Michaud calls his plan “Maine Made.” At 33 pages, it lays out policy goals that include a plan to raise Maine’s minimum wage to $9 per hour and make the sophomore year of college at any school in the University of Maine system tuition-free.
The booklet outlines initiatives in six areas, prioritizing what Michaud says are the advantages Maine has over other states. They are:
• Small business growth, including plans to facilitate the export of Maine goods to other states and launch a 10-year, $100 million “compact with small businesses,” which will include infrastructure projects.
• Worker development, including the free sophomore year plan, tuition guarantees and universal prekindergarten education.
• Farm and fisheries initiatives, such as expanded food hubs and incentives for institutional consumption of local foods.
• Tourism-boosting policies aimed at turning one-time visitors to lifelong consumers of Maine products.
• Renewable energy investments such as a plan to make “solar panels as common as woodstoves.”
• Plans to expand Medicaid to roughly 70,000 Mainers, increase the minimum wage and make the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit fully refundable.
“We can have economic growth and a clean environment,” Michaud said. “We can have thriving businesses and well-paid employees. With the right ideas, we can move Maine forward, together.”
According to Michaud, the plan includes “concrete proposals we can implement on Day One.” He said the plan will cost just $36 million in the first year — a sum he thinks can easily be found by the Legislature.
The plan is Michaud’s first major policy initiative released in association with his campaign for governor. Its release kicks off three days of campaigning throughout the state, with stops in Bangor, Ellsworth, the University of Maine, Auburn, Ogunquit, Freeport, Topsham and Rockland.
During the campaign swing, Michaud will meet with business owners, municipal officials, students and other voters to discuss his economic development plan.
Michaud is running against incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who in September released his own plan for Maine’s economy in the form of a 114-page booklet title “A State of Opportunity.”
With the election still nine months away, LePage has largely left his opponents to duke it out with each other on the campaign trail, with the exception of a campaign kickoff event in Augusta last November.
However, on Wednesday, LePage’s campaign chief, Brent Littlefield, blasted Michaud’s plan before it had even been made public, saying LePage was the best candidate to grow Maine’s economy.
“Paul LePage has spent most of his lifetime turning around business, creating jobs and helping grow Maine’s economy,” Littlefield said. “Having survived homelessness, no one knows more or cares more about Maine’s working poor and middle class than Paul LePage.”