For several years in a row, Maine’s business climate has ranked among the worst in America, with our regulatory environment earning especially low marks. In 2015, the Pacific Research Center ranked Maine 45th in the country based on an assessment of 14 regulatory policies. CNBC and Forbes both ranked Maine among the worst five states for business.
The concern that Mainers have about excessive regulation was evident in 2011 when nearly 1,000 people across the state testified for more than 100 hours on LD 1, a piece of legislation that reformed several environmental regulations, created a special position to help small businesses navigate regulatory requirements, and directed government agencies to ensure that rules were relevant, clear, and reasonable. However, despite the progress Governor LePage has made in making Maine more hospitable to businesses, there is still much to be done.
A recent informal survey of business owners conducted by The Maine Heritage Policy Center found that the overwhelming majority of respondents felt their regulatory burden had increased since they started their business, and many identified over-regulation as the most important obstacle they face.
Business owners voiced concerns over environmental policies that are too restrictive and stifle development, labor laws that hinder employment decisions and increase the regulatory cost of hiring more workers, and bureaucratic redundancy and convolution that make it difficult for small business owners to get the information they need to comply with rules. Others noted the impenetrable legalese of most regulations and emphasized the need for simpler language, as well as faster processing time for requests to government agencies. While some pointed to specific issues, many businesspeople stated that the entire regulatory code needs to be re-evaluated—“the whole system needs to be reviewed and changed,” said a Master Maine Guide. “All the snowflakes add up to one giant snowball,” said the owner of a boat building company.
The Red Tape Guidebook exposes some of the burdensome regulations that lawmakers in Augusta have passed over the years that have held back Maine’s economic growth. Through conversations with trade associations, business leaders, legislators, regulatory agencies, and Chambers of Commerce, as well as our own analysis, The Maine Heritage Policy Center has selected some of the laws and regulations currently on the books in Maine that hinder business growth and discourage entrepreneurship. As lawmakers look to improve Maine’s economy, attract investment, reduce unemployment, and raise wages, repealing these harmful regulations should top their list of goals.