AUGUSTA – Maine House Republicans on Friday panned an anti-jobs bill that targets call centers in the state and had its public hearing before the legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development (LCRED) Committee Thursday.
The bill, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) would inflict a virtual “death sentence” on businesses who move some operations out of state, revoking all state tax incentives and grants retroactively. Both the Maine Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Department of Labor testified against the measure.
“Senator Jackson’s bill punishes call centers for factors beyond their control and asks them to make a promise that no business can ever make: that once you come to Maine, you will never leave,” said Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough), ranking House Republican on the LCRED Committee. “It also sends a dangerous message to the business community who might wonder what industry will be targeted next. Should this bill pass, we will probably never see another call center come to Maine.”
The bill creates an “all or nothing” approach whereby a company has an incentive to move all of its operations out of the state instead of just some, as any operations left behind would be ineligible for any economic development incentives.
“This bill would literally create a hit list of Maine businesses that would be the subject of protectionist retaliation by bureaucrats in Augusta,” said Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst), also of the LCRED Committee. “It broadcasts to companies around the world that if you come to Maine, you better not make any changes once you get here because you’ll be on the hit list. That’s the last thing we need because call centers provide many laid off workers with a much-needed paycheck.”
Carbonite, Inc., the large, online data storage company, actually moved a call center from New Delhi, India to Lewiston in 2011, creating hundreds of jobs at the still-growing center. Lewiston was one of 75 competitive site locations the company considered. Jackson’s bill would make such moves highly unlikely in the future.
“Maine has tried to micromanage the private sector with these protectionist regulations for decades and where has it gotten us?” said Rep. Brian Duprey (R-Hampden) of the LCRED Committee. “We need to focus on the big picture of reasonable regulations, low taxes, low energy costs, and a skilled workforce if we want to see true growth.”
The bill is scheduled for a committee work session on Thursday, February 13.